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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Palestinian prisoners prepare hunger strike for April

Published on 11 March 2014 Written by Alternative Information Center (AIC)

More than a thousand Palestinian prisoners have warned the Israeli prison’s authorities of their plan to go on hunger strike in April. The strikes come as protest against the deteriorating health and sanitation conditions of the prisons, as well as the increasing number of provocations by the authorities. In response to the ongoing threats of hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners, the Israeli Knesset is set to change the law in order to allow force feeding of striking prisoners.
In a letter sent to the Ahrar Center for Prisoners Studies, Palestinian detainees in Megiddo prison highlighted the deterioration of their detention conditions. According to the letter, the 120 Palestinians currently held at the Megiddo prison live in poor conditions and are deprived of their basic human needs.
The poor sanitation threatens the detainees' health; the toilets lack running water and the sinks and showers generally lack hot water and basic hygiene, the detainees' letter revealed.
The detainees threatened to escalate their protest steps in response to the prison administration's repressive and arbitrary policy.
The director of the Ahrar Center, Fouad al-Khuffash, warned of the appalling situation in Megiddo prison, and pointed out that the Israeli prison's administration has escalated its provocations and daily violations against the detainees.
Palestinian complaints about the conditions in Israeli prisons are on the rise, with cases focusing on poor sanitation, poor medical services and daily attacks on prisoners by the authorities.
On Sunday, Palestinian prisoners in Eshel Prison, near Be'er Sheva, informed the prison’s administration they would go on hunger strike next month.
A lawyer for the Palestinian Prisoner Society quoted the prisoners as saying that the strike would be in protest at the prison administration’s humiliating search operations and insults to their visiting relatives, which include deliberately delaying them until the late hours of the evening.
The prisoners said they were also protesting maltreatment inside their wards and medical negligence.
It is calculated that almost 1,000 prisoners will go on hunger strike in April. Some 4,600 Palestinian detainees (including 12 women and 187 children) are currently held in Israeli prisons, according the Prisoners` Affairs Ministry. Currently, 79  prisoners are on individual hunger strikes as prison conditions worsen. This is the highest number of strikes since September 2013. 
In February, the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners and Detainees Issa Qaraqeh stated that Israeli authorities are responsible for the prisoners' lives.
As the health conditions of the prisoners are worsening Israeli authorities are pressuring them to abort their strike. At the beginning of March, the Israeli Home Front Defense Ministry published a memorandum of a law on “treatment for hunger strikers.”  The memorandum represents a revision to an existing prison protocol, and allows for force feeding of hunger-striking prisoners.
The memorandum comes in response to the prolonged hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners in 2012. These hunger strikes garnered a great deal of public and media attention, generating negativity toward Israeli political leaders and prison officials. The memorandum has been issued for public critique, having been jointly formulated by the Justice Ministry, the Health Ministry and the Israel Prison Service. It was also approved by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein last September.
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