Palestinian prisoners’ leader isolated, struggle grows as Zahran reaches 99 days of hunger strike

March in Ramallah in support of Ahmad Zahran, on hunger strike for 99 days. Photo: Wattan News

As hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee Ahmad Zahran entered his 99th day of hunger strike, demanding freedom from Israeli imprisonment without charge or trial, a leader in the Palestinian prisoners’ movement was transferred to collective isolation. Wael Jaghoub, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s prison branch, was transferred from Ramon prison to collective isolation in Hadarim prison shortly following the PFLP prisoners’ statement that the leftist party would be mobilizing inside the prisons to demand freedom for Zahran, 42.

The Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners reported on Monday, 30 December that the PFLP prison branch said that Jaghoub’s isolation was “an integral part of the ongoing targeting of leaders and cadres of the Front inside and outside prison. It is a desperate attempt to disrupt the activities of the Front’s prison organization, especially as it launches a new, strategic battle in support of Comrade Zahran on hunger strike.” Specifically, they said that the isolation was a form of retaliation for Jaghoub’s refusal to meet with a delegate from the Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency, along with other leaders of Palestinian parties inside prisons.

March in Ramallah in support of Ahmad Zahran, on hunger strike for 99 days. Photo: Wattan News

A group of PFLP prisoners in Israeli jails announced that they will launch a one-day hunger strike on Tuesday, 31 December in support of Zahran. They urged wide support and solidarity for Zahran’s struggle as he nears 100 days of hunger strike. They emphasized that Jaghoub’s isolation will not deter their commitment to escalate the struggle inside prisons in support of Zahran and his strike for freedom.

Wael Jaghoub is serving a life sentence in Israeli prison for his role in the Palestinian resistance. He has writen two books and dozens of articles from his prison cell, especially those related to the Palestinian prisoners’ movement. In a new book, “Letters from the Prison Experience,” Jaghoub wrote about the struggle of the prisoners’ movement inside Israeli jails. He has been repeatedly subjected to isolation, denial of family visits and interrogation during his imprisonment.

Images of Shatha Hassan and Mays Abu Ghosh at the march in Ramallah in support of Ahmad Zahran, on hunger strike for 99 days. Photo: Wattan News

Zahran, held in the Ramleh prison clinic, is unable to walk and has suffered from serious deterioration of his health and has lost over 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of weight since launching his strike. The military appeals court at Ofer prison has repeatedly delayed a decision on his appeal against the detention order.

From the village of Deir Abu Mishaal near Ramallah, Zahran previously conducted a 39-day hunger strike to secure his freedom from administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. Despite an agreement to end his hunger strike and release him, a new four-month administrative detention order was lodged against him, prompting Zahran to launch his current strike.

He has previously spent 15 years in Israeli prisons. He is the father of four children (Rusaylah, Reem, Omar and Yamen). His brother, Saleh, has served 17 years of a 20-year prison sentence and is held in Hadarim prison.

March in Ramallah in support of Ahmad Zahran, on hunger strike for 99 days. Photo: Wattan News

Also on 29 December, crowds of people marched in Ramallah in support of Zahran and his fellow Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails struggling for freedom. Participants carried banners highlighting Zahran’s strike and photos of many imprisoned Palestinians, including the student prisoners Shatha Hassan, president of the Bir Zeit Student Council Board, and Mays Abu Ghosh, journalism student at Bir Zeit.

Zahran is the latest Palestinian prisoner to wage a long-term hunger strike against administrative detention. Administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable and can be issued for up to six months at a time. Palestinians have spent years in Israeli prison under these orders. Currently, around 450 of over 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners are detained under administrative detention orders, initially introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate and then adopted by the Zionist state.

Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which is used systematically to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial, comes in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is also a form of psychological torture for the detainees and their families: They never know when and how they may be released, if ever.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network reiterates our full and unconditional solidarity with Ahmad Zahran and all Palestinian prisoners struggling for freedom. We urge all supporters of justice around the world to take a stand with Ahmad Zahran, whose life is on the line as he struggles to bring an end to administrative detention. International solidarity can be important to show Palestinian prisoners like Ahmad Zahran that they are not forgotten and to put pressure on the Israeli state – and the governments that support it – to support Zahran in achieving victory for justice and freedom.

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