Imprisoned Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat and a number of prominent leaders in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, including Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, have joined the hunger strike in support of Bilal Kayed‘s strike for freedom as part of a group of ten new hunger strikers, as Kayed enters his 47th day without food. As Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the PFLP – Kayed’s leftist party – announced his entry into the strike, he was reportedly transferred immediately to solitary confinement in Ramon prison, part of the ongoing repressive policies used by the Israel Prison Services against the hunger strikers.
In a statement released by the PFLP prisoners on 31 July, they stated that “the General Secretary, Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat is launching a hunger strike from Sunday, 31 July. This is a strategic deicision of a leader who is fighting this battle alongside his fellow strugglers. The commander does not leave his soldiers but joins in the battle, and emphasizes that his participation in the battle will continue until Comrade Bilal achieves his freedom.”
Sa’adat previously spent over three years in isolation; his solitary confinement and that of several Palestinian leaders provoked collective hunger strikes in 2011 and 2012, until the release of 19 leaders to general population was achieved in the mass Karameh hunger strike. In the past several years, the Israeli occupation has escalated the use of isolation and solitary confinement against Palestinian prisoners, with some prisoners, including Abdul Rahman Othman, imprisoned in solitary confinement for more than 2 years. Long-term solitary confinement is considered a form of torture for the extreme psychological pressure and damage it induces.
Kayed, who remains shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital, has experienced significant deterioration in his health. He suffers repeated periods of loss of consciousness, loss of vision, and has lost over 32 kilos of weight since the beginning of his strike. Kayed, 34, began his hunger strike on 15 June. He was scheduled for release on 13 June after serving 14.5 years in Israeli prisons. Instead of being released to meet his family and friends as they waited for him at an Israeli military checkpoint, he was instead ordered to administrative detention without charge or trial for an indefinitely renewable six-month period. Kayed’s case threatens a dangerous precedent for all Palestinian prisoners, of continued indefinite detention following the expiration of their sentences.
Ten prisoners announced joining the strike today, joining fellow prisoners who have launched hunger strikes over the past two weeks. Sa’adat, one of the most prominent imprisoned Palestinian leaders, joined the strike alongside Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, a fellow prominent leader in the PFLP. Both were captured by Israeli occupation forces in March 2006 when occupation tanks and bulldozers attacked the Palestinian Authority’s Jericho prison, where both had been imprisoned since 2002 under US and British guard. Both are currently imprisoned in Ramon prison, where eight fellow prisoners joined them in launching the open hunger strike today.
Also on hunger strike are the brothers Mohammed and Mahmoud al-Balboul, on hunger strike for 27 days against their administrative detention without charge or trial. Their 14-year-old sister Nuran was recently released after three months of imprisonment; the brothers were seized after their sister and imprisoned without charge or trial. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society demanded a transfer to hospital for the brothers, held in solitary confinement in Ofer prison, reporting that their health is deteriorating as they both suffer extreme fatigue and pain. They are refusing vitamin supplements and medical examinations. Also on hunger strike are Ayad Herama and Malik al-Qadi, who launched their strike 16 days ago, demanding their release from administrative detention.
As the hunger strike grows in prison to include dozens of prisoners demanding the release of Kayed and his fellow prisoners held under administrative detention, protests continue in cities, towns and camps throughout Palestine and around the world in support of Kayed’s battle for freedom.
At the Al-Quds Open University in Nablus, the Progressive Student Labor Front organized a vigil in solidarity with Kayed, demanding his freedom, on 30 July, part of the series of events organized as part of the World Student Day of Solidarity called for by the PSLF; organizers in Rabat, Morocco, also organized a student protest outside the parliament building on Saturday.
In occupied Palestine ’48, in the Negev desert, villagers of Al-Araqib village that has been destroyed over 100 times by the Israeli forces, demonstrated for the right to their land and for freedom for Bilal Kayed. In Dheisheh refugee camp, a night march wound through the streets of the camp from the permanent solidarity tent erected in support of the prisoners’ struggle on the evening of 30 July.
In Burqaa village near Nablus, crowds took the streets in a march demanding freedom for Kayed, who hails from the Nablus-area village of Asira al-Shamaliyeh. Activists in Nablus City organized a distribution of water and salt to drivers and passersby in the city, highlighting the plight of Kayed and his fellow Palestinian prisoners on 30 July.
In Gaza, a motorcade protest of cars and motorcycles drove through the streets broadcasting messages about the struggle of the prisoners and demanding Kayed’s freedom. Palestinians gathered in Tulkarem for a protest in support of Kayed and his fellow prisoners’ battle for freedom.
A series of events is planned at the solidarity tent in Ramallah for Kayed and his fellow Palestinian prisoners on a daily basis, on 31 July, 1 August and ongoing throughout the early days of August.
In Milan, Italy Fronte Palestina organized a protest at Piazza Guglielmo Oberdan on 29 July, coming together to distribute information to the public and raise the call for freedom for Bilal Kayed and his fellow 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners.
In New York City, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network took to the streets in its fourth protest for Palestinian prisoners in the past week, outside the offices of G4S, the massive multinational security corporation that provides security systems, equipment and control rooms to Israeli prisons, demanding freedom for Kayed and his fellow prisoners, and an end to G4S contracts in Palestine.
Meanwhile, in Manchester, Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, the Revolutionary Communist Group and Manchester Palestine Action gathered to protest for freedom for Palestine and for Palestinian political prisoners. Protesters rallied in Piccadilly Gardens before marching on corporate supporters of Israeli apartheid and colonialism like Barclays Bank.