With Palestinian political prisoners now more than one month into an ongoing hunger strike, daily solidarity events and direct actions are being held across Palestine. The hunger strike began in April against Israel’s continued use of Administrative Detention – a system of imprisonment without charge, trial or access to legal defence. A previous hunger strike in 2012 was ended after Israel agreed to limit its use of Administrative Detention, a false promise that never translated to action on the Occupation’s part.
According to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights organisation, 183 Palestinian political prisoners are currently being held on Administrative Detention including nine members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. In total, more than 5,200 Palestinians are currently being held in the Occupation’s prisons.
The number of hunger strikers is also increasing. According to the Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner’s Affairs, Issa Qarake, who spoke at a sit-in protest outside the Ramallah headquarters of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) on Tuesday, at least 350 prisoners had joined the strike. At least 70 of the hunger strikers have been hospitalised after now refusing food for more than five weeks.
The Palestinian street is moving in solidarity with the prisoners. Events are being held daily both within the 1967 occupied lands and also within 1948 occupied Palestine. Solidarity tents have been set up in many Palestinian cities and direct actions are now being implement by youth activists. On Wednesday, a group of activists closed down the Ramallah headquarters of the ICRC in protest at the ‘silence from the ICRC and other international organisations who are responsible for ensuring human dignity and rights of Palestinian prisoners as prescribed by their mandate… Silence is complicity.’
On Friday, demonstrations were held across Palestine in support of the hunger strikers. In the West Bank, demonstrations were planned at Ofer detention centre near Ramallah, Huwara near Nablus and in Hebron and other cities and villages. A planned demonstration following Friday prayers at al-Aqsa mosque, was prevented by a massive Israeli security presence – including soldiers, border and regular policemen – who encircled the Old City area with checkpoints, preventing any Palestinians under the age of 45 from entering the entire area. As Palestinians were kept away from the Old City, tourists and settlers were allowed to walk around freely.
In 1948 Palestine, events have been held outside Ramle prison, in Jaffa and in Haifa. Protests are ongoing and youth activist groups have also promised to escalate direct actions until the prisoner’s demands are met, and their rights are both defended and realised.
The hunger strikers are struggling for their rights, with only salt and water keeping them alive.
MEMO Photographer: Rich Wiles