Resistance Through Hunger Strikes

Human rights groups call for more mobilization to save Palestinian prisoners

Palestinians have staged a protest at the al-Manara Square in downtown Ramallah on Wednesday, to call for the release of six prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, some of whom are at imminent risk of death.

Especially concerning is the situation of Kayed Nammoura (Fasfous) and Miqdad Qawasmeh, two Palestinians administratively detained and hospitalized in Israel. This is an Israeli policy that allows detaining Palestinians indefinitely based on secret information and without any formal charges or even a trial.

Kayed Fasfous has been on a hunger strike for 98 days and is languishing in Israeli custody at Barzilai hospital in Asqalan (Ashkelon). Speaking at the protest, his brother voiced that Kayed is in “very dangerous condition” and could die at any moment. “Kayed was an athlete with distinction. He weighed 95kg before his hunger strike. He has now lost more than half of his weight,” Kayed’s brother said, explaining he refuses any kind of medical checkup or vitamins.

Miqdad al-Qawasmi, who has refused food and drink for 91 days, is the least healthy of six incarcerated Palestinian hunger strikers, according to Anani Sarahneh, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

An Israeli medical official said al-Qawasmi has been in Israel’s Kaplan Hospital for a month and was transferred to intensive care Tuesday 19, where he continues to refuse food but is drinking water. The official described his condition as “difficult but stable.” Al-Qawasmi’s lawyer, Jawad Bulous, has told that he can face “sudden death.”

Qawasmi’s father remarked that his son is on a hunger strike to secure his liberation. “Those on hunger strike represent the epitome of freedom,” he voiced.

Other prisoners on hunger strike are Alaa al-Araj (75 days), and Hisham Abu Hawwash (65 days), and have also been moved from the Ramle prison clinic to Israeli hospitals after their health deteriorated. Al Jazeera describes that their whereabouts remain unknown, even to their families. Alaa’s mother Nabila said he is “unable to stand, to talk, to see”, explaining that doctors are particularly worried about his nervous system.

If this was not enough, Israeli authorities have prevented the family from seeing him since his arrest on June 30, and on Tuesday, Israeli courts rejected a petition by lawyers to freeze Alaa’s administrative detention order.

Punitive measures after the Gilboa scape

The mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners has attracted renewed attention since the breakout of Israel’s Gilboa prison in early September. Six prisoners managed to escape the prison in a movie-like way: tunneling themselves out of the high-security facility. Now they are all re-arrested and indicted.

The jailbreak was hailed as a victory by Palestinians, most of whom view detainees in Israeli prisons as political prisoners under Israeli occupation. Since then, prisons have witnessed heightened tensions and collective punishment policies imposed against Palestinian prisoners, in particular members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) party, of which five of the six prisoners who escaped belong.

After the jailbreak, Israeli prison authorities conducted mass transfers of PIJ prisoners and forcibly separated them, placing some in solitary confinement and interrogating others. PIJ prisoners are not allowed any visits, a collective punishment measure that has been in place since the escape, picks up Al Tahhan.

Hunger striking is a common form of protest among Palestinian prisoners and has helped secure concessions from Israeli authorities over the years. Nevertheless, now Israeli authorities have given no indication that they will concede to the prisoners’ demands, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

A total of 4,650 Palestinians are imprisoned and they range from known militants convicted of deadly attacks against Israelis to teenagers detained for stone-throwing at Israeli troops. Under administrative detention, there are around 520 Palestinians.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, has called for further national mobilization in all occupied Palestinian territories because “Israel wants to turn us into a population that asks for civil rights, not national rights.” Fares has added that hundreds of prisoners are threatening to participate in the an-open ended strike during the following days.

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