Several human rights organizations along with the United Nations (UN) have expressed serious concerns over the health conditions of some 1,300 Palestinians who entered their 39th day of a mass hunger strike across Israeli prisons on Thursday, as Palestinian leaders fear possible deaths as hunger strikers continue being transferred by the dozens to Israeli civilian hospitals, Maan News reports.
The hunger-striking prisoners are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial — among other demands for basic rights.
Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Qaraqe said in a statement on Thursday that the health conditions of the hunger strikers have become "very critical," and expressed his concern over possible deaths of the prisoners if Israel Prison Service (IPS) continued to refuse their demands.
Qaraqe said that calls were still being made to legal and international institutions, along with initiating calls with Israeli authorities "around the clock" concerning the hunger strike.
He added that reent discussions between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and right-wing US President Donald Trump during Trump's two day visit to Israel and the ocuppied West Bank, "played an important role" and "forced many to take action" in order to pressure Israel to respond to the demands. However, Qaraqe did not elaborate on what discussions he was referring to or how the US President has been involved in any initiatives around the hunger strike.
"Israel has become concerned and surprised when they found that field hospitals were not enough to take in all the prisoners," he added, referring to controversial medical clinics that were set up in several Israeli prisons when the hunger strike began — sites many fear could be used to force feed the hunger strikers en masse.
Abbas made a statement on Thursday during a Fatah Central Committee meeting in Ramallah saying that the prisoners' cause was "deeply discussed" with Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for international negotiations. He added that Palestinian leaders had informed Greenblatt of the details around the hunger strike and that they were "hoping to be in touch with Greenblatt again soon to hear his responses concerning the prisoners' demands."
Abbas also emphasized that the "whole world knows that the demands of hunger-striking prisoners are fair. Israel has no excuse to refuse their demands."
The media committee formed to support the hunger strikers also released a statement on Thursday, saying that IPS officials have moved 15 hunger-striking prisoners from Israel's Ashkelon prison to Israeli civilian hospitals owing to the deterioration of their health conditions.
Some 150 Palestinian prisoners have been transferred to Israeli civilian hospitals to be treated in recent days.
Hunger-striking prisoner Alaa al-Din Abd al-Karim from Bethlehem told lawyers of the the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS) Karim Ajwa and Khaled Mahajna that the prisoners have experienced severe weight loss, pains, exhaustion, and difficulty moving.
Abd al-Karim noted that IPS had moved him, along with a number of other hunger strikers, to Israel's Barzilai Hospital to undergo medical checkups. He said that the Israeli doctors had informed IPS officials of the their "dangerous health conditions," but did not provide them with any medical treatment.