Poster: Walls | حيطان

As Palestinian prisoners enter their 17th day of open hunger strike, a major escalation is planned to take place tomorrow, 4 May, when significant political leaders will join the hunger strike. Imprisoned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat and fellow PFLP leader Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh will join the strike with dozens of leaders from all factions, announced former political prisoner and leftist parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar, at a joint press conference held simultaneously in Ramallah and Gaza City on Wednesday morning, 3 May.

Jarrar denounced attempts to re-start “negotiations” while the prisoners are starving for freedom, saying that anyone who wishes to speak to the leadership of the Palestinian people should go to the prisons to find that leadership and meet with them. She also denounced Palestinian Authority security coordination with Israel, demanding that it come to an end immediately. She emphasized that the strike would continue to grow, with an increasing number of leaders joining the strike.

Sa’adat, Abu Ghoulmeh and the PFLP leaders are not alone in joining the strike; the Islamic Jihad movement announced that 16 members of its leadership in Ramon prison will join the hunger strike on Thursday, 4 May, in support of their fellow prisoners: Ziad Bseiso, Said Tubasi, Tamim Salem, Munif Abu Atwan, Iyad Abu Hashem, Mohammed Aridat, Mahmoud Kalibi, Mohammed Abdel-Hamid, Ahmed Bseiso, Abdel-Rahman Abu Libdeh, Ahmed al-Shanna, Hamza al-Haj Mohammed, Omar Abu al-Rub, Adnan Hussein, Abdel-Rahman Rayyan and Majdi Yassin.

The joint press conference included representatives of the PFLP, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fateh and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as Issa Qaraqe of the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission.

The strike, which was launched by 1500 prisoners in Israeli jails on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners Day, highlights key, basic demands: end to denial of family visits, the right to access distance higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and imprisonment without charge or trial.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, also issued a statement on 2 May, warning the Israeli prison administration that it would take swift action if the demands of the prisoners did not find a response within 24 hours; it also noted that it would increase its demands for prisoner releases in exchange for captured Israelis held in Gaza on a daily basis so long as the strike continues with no action to implement the prisoners’ demands.

Among the striking prisoners are three Jordanian prisoners in Israeli jails, Riad Saleh, Abdallah Abu Jaber and Raafat al-Asa’s, out of the 23 Jordanian prisoners in Israeli jails. The National Committee for Imprisoned and Missing Jordanians issued a statement on 3 May highlighting their involvement in the strike and urging international and Arab action to support the hunger strikers.  Also participating in the hunger strike is Syrian prisoner in Israeli jails Sidqi al-Maqt, from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Al-Maqt joined the strike on 19 April, its third day. “I salute, from the heart of Israeli jails, the souls of all martyrs of Syria and Arab nations. The hunger pains in our empty stomachs are a battle towards the victory of our humanity and national dignity,” he said.

Since the strike began, over 20 prisoners have been taken to hospitals and clinics and a number of prisoners have reportedly fainted during the strike. The prisoners consume only salt and water during the strike, without additives, vitamins or other supplements.

Prisoners have faced sharp repression since the strike began – with hundreds of prisoners transferred, many leaders ordered into solitary confinement and hunger strikers widely denied legal visits or family visits. A hearing will take place in the Israeli Supreme Court today, Wednesday, 3 May, in response to a petition filed by Adalah and the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission demanding legal visits with their imprisoned hunger-striking clients. The hearing will convene at 11:30 am in Jerusalem.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges the escalation of international support and solidarity just as the prisoners are escalating their strike. Students on campuses throughout Europe are organizing hunger strike solidarity actions while a growing number of cities and towns are hosting actions and demonstrations. It is critical to break the isolation imposed by the Israeli state with broader, wider, louder and stronger international solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners as they continue their valiant struggle in the Strike of Freedom and Dignity.