Palestinian prisoners enter 13th day of hunger strike; occupation forces attack protests of support

Art by Josh MacPhee for Decolonize This Place #DignityStrike campaign

Palestinian political prisoners are now entering their 13th day of open hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Launched on 17 April by 1500 Palestinian prisoners, the Strike of Freedom and Dignity has a series of demands, including an end to the denials of family visits, appropriate medical care and treatment for ill Palestinian prisoners, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.

The strike has been met with sharp repression by the Israeli prison administration, which has denied legal visits to the vast majority of hunger strikers, cut off family visits, confiscated prisoners’ clothing and blankets, subjected strikers to frequent raids and abusive transfers from one prison to another, isolated hunger strike leaders in solitary confinement and even confiscated salt from hunger strikers according to many reports. Hunger strikers take only salt and water during their strikes.

Repressive units continued to attack the prisoners in Ayalon Ramle prison on Friday, 28 April, after transferring a number of leaders of the hunger strike to isolation cells in this prison, including Kamil Abu Hanish, Nader Sadaqa, Nasser Abu Hmeid, Wajdi Jawdat, Nasser al-Owais, Ziad Zahran and Mohammed al-Khalidi.  More transfers of strikers and prison movement leaders continued, as Raed al-Saadi, Amjad al-Deek and Yousri al-Masri, were transferred from Nafha to Ohli Kedar prison, while Thabet Mardawi and Ahmed al-Saadi were transferred from Hadarim to isolation in Eshel prison.

In Ofer prison, prisoners who have not yet joined the strike returned their meals on Friday and performed Friday prayers in the brown “Shabas” prison uniform in support of their fellow hunger-striking prisoners.

Several Palestinian legal organizations have filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against the denial of legal visits to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. Only several prisoners each in Ofer and Ashkelon prisons have successfully received legal visits; all other visits, including those with strike leaders like Marwan Barghouthi, Abu Hanish, Sadaqa, Jawdat and others, have been denied. The Israeli Supreme Court set next Wednesday, 3 May as a date for the consideration of the petition by Adalah and the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission to allow legal visits for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.  Hundreds of lawyers, legal workers and law students have signed a letter by the National Lawyers Guild in the United States in support of the hunger striking prisoners’ demands as well as supporting Palestinian lawyers’ demands to have legal visits with their clients.

Massive protests throughout occupied Palestine, in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and occupied Palestine ’48 continued in support of the hunger strikers. In Nazareth, Shafa ‘Amr, Sakhnin, Umm al-Fahm, Majd al-Krum, Rahat and Buain Nujeidat, protesters organized sit-ins and demonstrations in support of the strikers, raising Palestinian flags and posters of the prisoners.  Throughout the West Bank, Palestinians were injured by Israeli occupation forces who attacked protests in support of the prisoners; over 60 were injured by occupation forces attacking protests.

In al-Arroub refugee camp north of al-Khalil, Israeli occupation forces attacked and stormed a tent in support of the prisoners and injured two Palestinian youth.  Dozens more were injured in the evening as occupation forces attacked a candlelight march in the camp in support of the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners.

Dozens more were injured by tear gas thrown by Israeli occupation forces in Bethlehem against a march launched after Friday prayers; actions in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour continued later in the evening in support of the prisoners with night marches.

In Beit Ummar, Israeli occupation forces attacked a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners, firing live ammunition and shooting stun grenades and tear gas, injuring a number of participants.  In Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, two Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated metal bullets by Israeli occupation forces while nine more were overcome by tear gas as Israeli occupation forces attcked a prisoner support demonstration.  In Nabi Saleh, three more Palestinian youths were injured by Israeli occupation forces who attacked a demonstration confronting them with live “tutu” bullets.  Two young men were wounded in the foot and leg, while another was hit in the head by a tear gas canister shot by occupation forces.

In Kufr Qaddum, six Palestinian young people, including two children, were wounded by Israeli occupation soldiers firing rubber-coated metal bullets against a march following Friday prayers in support of the prisoners.  In Beita, Israeli occupation forces ignited a fire in a central vegetable market by firing tear gas and sound bombs toward demonstrators for the prisoners.

In al-Khalil, Jenin, Nil’in, Bil’in, Ramallah, al-Fara refugee camp, Gaza, Tulkarem, al-Khader, Tubas, Nablus and elsewhere in occupied Palestine, demonstrations and protests for the prisoners continued, frequently coming under attack by occupation forces.

Protests also continued to grow in support of the prisoners outside Palestine. In Brussels, crowds gathered outside the city’s central train station in solidarity with the prisoners, while a human chain stretched through the streets of Berlin in support of the prisoners’ strike. In New York City, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network rallied to support the prisoners and for the boycott of Hewlett-Packard, while more protests were organized in London, Copenhagen, Aarhus, Montreal, Albany, Parma, Girona and elsewhere. Irish republican socialists for Palestine organized two vigils in Dublin and Belfast, with many people remaining out for an all-night vigil in Belfast in support of the hunger strikers.

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, which works to support prisoners in the United States in their struggles for freedom and justice in the U.S. prison system, issued a statement in support of the Palestinian prisoners, as have many other organizations, including Black4Palestine and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Many Palestinians and people in solidarity with Palestine continued to participate in social media actions to support the prisoners, including the #DignityStrike campaign of artists and the #SaltWaterChallenge, in which people drink a cup of salt and water to show their support for the prisoners.

International events are planned today, Saturday 29 April in Paris, Gothenburg, Rome, London, Turin, Memphis, Berlin, Koblenz, Bremen and Albertville, among other locations. In Palestine, the National Committee to Support the Hunger Strike is calling for wide participation in the support tents for the prisoners beginning at 11:00 am today, with church bells and prayers for the prisoners on Sunday, 30 April, and full participation in May 1st, International Workers’ Day, activities on Monday in support of the prisoners’ strike and with the full support of Palestinian workers and labor unions.