Four Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are currently engaged in hunger strikes to protect prisoners’ rights and demand their freedom. Saddam Ali Ayad Awad, 28, from Beit Ummar near al-Khalil, has been on strike since 13 October, after occupation authorities renewed his administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial.
Awad earlier went on hunger strike for 10 days in August, which he suspended when Israeli intelligence officials told him that his administrative detention would not be renewed. However, despite this promise, his imprisonment without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence was renewed for another six months, sparking his strike. After nearly three weeks on hunger strike, Awad’s health has begun to deteriorate; he has lost significant amounts of weight and suffers from extreme fatigue, difficulty moving and pain throughout his body.
Awad was arrested for the first time in 2009; he spent two and a half years in Israeli jails before being released as part of the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange. In 2013, he was once again arrested and his sentence of four years reimposed. After his release in November 2017, he was free for only four months before occupation forces seized him again on 12 March 2018, ordering him imprisoned without charge or trial.
Sheikh Rizk Rajoub, 60, from the village of Dura near al-Khalil, also launched a hunger strike on Sunday, 28 October. This is the third hunger strike he has launched while detained; like Awad, Rajoub is jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention. He was seized by occupation forces on 27 November 2017 and ordered to administrative detention. He was also threatened with deportation from Palestine. He went on strike for 25 days and suspended it with a pledge that his case would instead be transferred to charges in the military court.
However, Israeli occupation forces ignored the promise and ordered him jailed for six months without charge or trial. He again refused food for 10 days, extracting a promise to not renew his detention. Nonetheless, his detention was renewed for a second time. His detention period will soon expire once more, and Rajoub launched the strike to demand that he be released at that time without the renewal of his detention order.
Administrative detention orders are issued for one to six months at a time; they are indefinitely renewable. Palestinians have been jailed for years at a time without charge or trial under repeatedly renewed detention orders.
Rajoub, a leader in the Hamas movement, himself has been imprisoned by the Israeli occupation on multiple occasions, serving nearly 23 years behind bars, 10 of those mostly under administrative detention. His most recent arrest came only one week after his release from a previous detention period, when he was jailed without charge or trial for 29 months. Riyad al-Ashqar of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies said that occupation forces pressured him to accept deportation to Sudan as a condition for his release.
They are not alone. Two more Palestinian prisoners, Kifah Hattab and Khalil Abu Aram, have launched a hunger strike against repressive conditions imposed by Israeli prison administration as part of an initiative by Israeli minister Gilad Erdan to impose even more difficult conditions on Palestinian prisoners. The commission is seeking to roll back the achievements that Palestinian prisoners have won through years of struggle. Thousands of books have been confiscated from prisoners, who have also seen decreased food rations and limited access to hot water.
Hattab and Abu Aram, both serving multiple life sentences, are held in Hadarim prison. They launched their hunger strike to support Palestinian women prisoners in HaSharon, who have refused to go out to the recreation yard for nearly two months due to the sudden imposition of surveillance cameras on 5 September. They are also protesting intensified repression inside Hadarim and other prisons.
Hattab and Abu Aram have been on hunger strike since 24 October to demand an end to these repressive mechanisms and the withdrawal of the surveillance cameras from HaSharon prison. In June, Abu Aram and other Palestinian prisoners were attacked in Nafha prison when photos from inside the prison were released revealing them baking ma’amoul cookies in their rooms for Eid al-Fitr. Abu Aram was thrown in isolation and later transferred, while nine prisoners were assaulted and isolated for defending Abu Aram against the guards’ attack.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses our strongest support for all of these prisoners on hunger strike, as well as the women prisoners of HaSharon fighting back against repression. They are struggling with their bodies and their lives to defend their dignity and their rights. Their courage and sacrifices serve as another impetus to build campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and its products, academic institutions and cultural institutions to demand freedom for all Palestinian prisoners and freedom for Palestine.