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Thousands Protest 'Israeli Occupation Prisons' as Hunger Strikers Press On

Israel arrests brother of hunger striker as families urge end to indefinite detention

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Israeli authorities raided the home of Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi overnight in east Jerusalem, harassing his family members and arresting his brother, witnesses and Israeli authorities said.

Issawi, 33, is among several hunger strikers currently held in Israeli prisons who are on strike against the practice of 'administrative detention' in which Israeli authorities detain Palestinians without charge or trial for indefinite periods of time.

Issawi has been on hunger strike for over 200 days and is on the verge of death. Reports have suggested that he has been force fed by Israeli guards to be kept alive.

"At 2:30am (0030 GMT), Israeli forces barged into our house without any warrant or order and locked us all in one room while five men attacked Shadi and took him away," Issawi's sister Shireen told Agence France-Presse. "Lawyers were not allowed access to him and he had a secret hearing without a lawyer which handed him a four-day detention."

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court is expected to have a hearing for Issawi on Tuesday.

"We don't know what to expect," his sister added.

Meanwhile, on Monday Palestinians blocked roads and held marches across the West Bank to protest against Israel's detention of thousands of Palestinians, many of them without charge or trial. The protesters demanded the release of Issawi along with three other hunger strikers Tareq Qaadan, 40, Jafar Ezzedine, 41 and Ayman Sharawna, 36, who are protesting against the inhumane conditions.

More than 1,000 people joined a rally of support in the northern city of Nablus, while another 1,500 gathered in the center of Hebron in the south to demand their release, AFP correspondents said.

"Freedom for the prisoners!" the protesters chanted.

Associated Press reports that near Bethlehem, Israeli forces chased protesters who blocked a major West Bank road: "Soldiers chased them with sticks and hurled tear gas and stun grenades between jammed cars as Palestinians blocked traffic, waving their national black-green-red-and-white flag and shouting support for the prisoners."

BBC News reports today that as of December 2012, Israel held 4,517 Palestinians in its jails. Of those prisoners:

  • 1,031 are being held "until the conclusion of legal proceedings
  • 178 are in administrative detention
  • 170 are under 18 years old

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urging her to secure the release of unjustly detained Palestinian prisoners.

"We believe it is no longer acceptable to merely request better treatment of Palestinians in Israeli occupation prisons, but to demand an end to the arbitrary system of Israeli detentions," the letter said.

"We are asking you to prevent a tragedy and take immediate and definitive action to secure the freedom of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike."

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