At least 1,380 prisoners from across the Palestinian political spectrum are preparing to go on a mass hunger strike by Friday 17 in support of the rearrested escapees and other fellow prisoners. Even though they can face brutal suppression by the Masada unit of the Israel Prison Services (IPS) and maybe being sent to solitary confinement or relocating, they need to protest the ill-treatment and detention conditions in Israeli prisons.
For years, numerous reports and testimonies have reported the awful treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. In recent months, Palestinian anger has been rising because of the deteriorating health of six Palestinian hunger strikers that are protesting their administrative detention (detention without trial).
Palestinians are also furious over the punitive measures being meted out by the IPS following the escape and rearrest, of high-profile Palestinian prisoners from a high-security jail in northern Israel, Gilboa prison on September 6. Four have been recaptured, but two are still on the run.
There are more than 4,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails and the ones that begin the strike on Friday are expected to be joined by more inmates next week.
After the escape, hundreds of fellow Gilboa inmates were transferred to other jails and personal items confiscated in searches carried out by guards, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club. “The situation is very bad in the prisons, that’s why they’re going on hunger strike,” Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Authority’s commission for prisoners, told.
Abu Bakr added that talks between the Israeli prison authorities and prisoner representatives have made no progress. Among Palestinians, Gilboa’s fugitives have been regarded as “heroes” who succeeded in freeing themselves from multiple life sentences. Nevertheless, the remaining escaped prisoners, Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, are claimed of being members of the Islamic Jihad terror group.
According to The Times of Israel, Kamamji was serving a life sentence for killing an 18-year-old Israeli in 2006, a murder he reportedly expressed pride in. Nafiyat has not been charged with a crime and was being held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention.
As of right now, one of the four rearrested Palestinian prisoners has told his lawyer he is being subjected to physical and mental abuse and torture by Israeli interrogators. Al Jazeera’s Zena Al Tahhan informs that Lawyer Khaled Mahajneh from the Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees Affairs defense team met with Mohammed al-Ardah on Wednesday 5 after Israeli intelligence services lifted the ban on the prisoners’ access to their lawyers. This has come five days after their rearrest.
The four recaptured men are being held and interrogated in Jalama. On Friday, Mahmoud Abdullah al-Ardah, and Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri were captured on the southern outskirts of Nazareth, and on Saturday, Zakaria Zubeidi, and Mohammed al-Ardah, were arrested nearby in the Palestinian village of Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam.
Ongoing hunger strikes
Six Palestinians have stopped eating for months now. Kayed Fasfous, Miqdad Qawasmeh, and Hisham Abu Hawash from Hebron; Raik Bisharat from Tubas; Alla al-Araj from Tulkarem; and Shadi Abu Aker from Bethlehem are on a prolonged hunger strike. They refuse to eat until Israeli authorities inform them what they have been charged with and when they will be released.
They are in what is known as administrative detention. This kind of legal procedure allows Israeli forces to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial, although it is technically prohibited under international law.
“The secret information or evidence cannot be accessed by the detainee nor his lawyer, and administrative detention can, according to Israeli military orders, be renewed every six months for an unlimited time,” stated Addameer.
It is believed that 520 Palestinians are in administrative detention. In some instances, such as in Hisham Abu Hawas’ case the family doesn’t know how he is doing since he started his hunger strike 27 days ago. They do not know where he is or what his condition is because the Red Cross has not been able to visit him, and the Israeli authorities refuse to provide information.
Since the escape of the six prisoners from Gilboa prison, more clashes have broken out all over the occupied West Bank of stone-throwing, shooting attacks, stabbing, throwing of incendiary devices, homemade bombs on the streets, rockets from the Gaza Strip, and other attacks against Israeli security forces and settlers.
Palestinian anger seems unstoppable. The mistreatment of prisoners for them is extremely relatable since almost every family has experienced at least one member being arrested and imprisoned. Palestinians have warned that they will increment protests until the Israeli authorities cease punitive measures.