Solidarity strikes expand as Ahmad Zahran approaches 103rd day of hunger strike

Protest to free Ahmad Zahran. Photo: Hadf News

As Palestinian prisoner Ahmad Zahran prepares to enter his 103rd day of hunger strike, a growing number of Palestinian prisoners are on strike in solidarity with him to demand his freedom. Zahran, 42, from the village of Deir Abu Mishaal, is jailed without charge or trial under Israeli administrative detention. He previously conducted a 39-day hunger strike that ended with a promise for his release – but launched his current strike when, instead, his detention was renewed once more on 22 September 2019.

Jamil Saleh Ankoush, 37, also from Deir Abu Mishaal, has been on open hunger strike for eight days to demand Zahran’s freedom. He has been imprisoned since 2003 and was sentenced to 20 years in Israeli prison; he has completed 17 years of his sentence and is engaged to former Palestinian political prisoner Sumoud Karajah. Two more prisoners have also launched open strikes to support Zahran’s freedom, even as dozens are joining one-day rolling solidarity actions.

Mohammed Nidal Abu Ghazi, 19, from Al-Aroub camp has been on hunger strike for three days in the Negev desert prison in support of Zahran; he is serving a four and a half year sentence in Israeli prison and has been detained by the occupation since September 2016. Maher al-Maarin, also from al-Aroub refugee camp, is on his second day of hunger strike with Zahran; he is serving 17 months in Israeli prison and has been jailed since April 2019. Earlier, he joined the collective hunger strike in support of Huzaifa Halabiya against his detention without charge or trial.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Prison Branch announced the names of the prisoners in Ofer prison who launched a one-day hunger strike on Thursday, 2 January in support of Zahran, following on the initial solidarity strike on 31 December 2019. The names of the solidarity strikers are: Khaled al-Qad, Mohammed Fararjeh, Khaled Taha, Fathi Arar, Ribhi Karajah, Hassan Hashem, Amir Shajboun, Jamal al-Eidah, Raghad Shamroukh, Nizam Mutair, Imad Salah, Anan Sharif, Basil Daamseh, Ahmed Shajboun, Abed Khawaja, Yazan Mohsen, Suleiman al-Deek, Mohammed Ghatasheh, Mohammed al-Khamour and Wadie Jaber.

The PFLP prison branch also announced that 10 more prisoners will join the rolling series of one-day hunger strikes on Sunday, 5 January, in Gilboa prison. In a statement, they warned the Israeli prison administration and intelligence services against any harm to Zahran, noting that they are fully responsible for the consequences of further injury to the striking Palestinian prisoner. “Our steps of solidarity and support are continuous, and may take various forms in the coming days and weeks,” the statement emphasized.

Zahran is facing severe health deterioration in the Ramleh prison clinic. Occupation forces are attempting to break his strike through delaying his appeal in the military courts and transferring him back to interrogation despite his weakness and fatigue after over three months without food. He has lost 35 kilograms (77 pounds) of weight and has a slow heartbeat, pain throughout his body and acute vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

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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