RAMALLAH, April 26, 2012 (WAFA) – The Israeli prison authorities have escalated its punishment of striking prisoners in an effort to force them to end their strike, a statement by Addameer, a Ramallah-based prisoners’ advocacy group, said on Thursday.

It said an estimated 2000 prisoners held in Israeli jails are currently on hunger strike, most started it on April 17, demanding an end to administrative detention, isolation and other punitive measures taken against Palestinian prisoners including the denial of family visits and access to university education.

“As during hunger strikes in the past, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has escalated its punishments of hunger striking prisoners in an effort to undermine the campaign,” said Addameer.

Methods of punishment currently being employed against hunger striking prisoners include attacks on prisoners’ sections; confiscation of personal belongings; transfers from one prison to another; placement in solitary confinement; fines; and denial of family and lawyer visits, it said.

According to the statement, 40 prisoners who began their hunger strike on Wednesday in Ofer prison near Ramallah were informed that they will be transferred to another section of the prison and will not be permitted to bring with them any personal belongings except clothes.

In Ashkelon prison, the 150 hunger strikers are experiencing daily raids and attacks on their rooms by Israeli special forces. In addition to all personal belongings being confiscated, the IPS also confiscated the hunger-striking prisoners’ only nourishment: salt for their water.

Addameer said several prisoners, including one female prisoner who joined the hunger strike, were immediately taken to solitary confinement.

It said that seven of the eight administrative detainees who went on hunger strike over a month ago have been transferred to Ramleh prison clinic following deterioration in their health.

Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, whose appeals against their administrative detention orders were rejected by an Israeli military judge on Monday, are on their 58th day of hunger strike.

Hassan Safadi, on hunger strike for 53 days, also had his petition to the Israeli High Court against his administrative detention rejected on Tuesday.

Administrative detainees Omar Abu Shalal and Jaafar Azzedine are on their 50th and 35th days of hunger strike respectively.

Mohammad Taj, on his 40th day of hunger strike demanding to be treated as a prisoner of war, and Mahmoud Sarsak, on his 35th day of hunger strike in protest of being held under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, have also been admitted to Ramleh prison clinic.

Abdullah Barghouti, held in isolation in Rimon prison, is on his 15th day of hunger strike.

Addameer said it was concerned about the health condition of these prisoners warning that they have not received adequate healthcare in the IPS medical center and that independent doctors were still being denied visits to them.

It said that despite the punitive measures being taken against hunger striking prisoners, the campaign of hunger strikes continues to grow.

M.S.