Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hmeid dies in occupation prisons in latest crime of medical neglect

Palestinian prisoner and freedom fighter Nasser Abu Hmeid died in the morning of Tuesday, 20 December 2022 after falling into a coma, becoming the latest symbol of the devastation caused by the Israeli occupation’s policy of medical negligence. Abu Hmeid, 50, from Al-Amari refugee camp, passed away in Assaf Harofeh hospital, having been repeatedly denied release and return to his family even after his terminal cancer diagnosis and the severe deterioration of his health.

Throughout the West Bank of occupied Palestine, people took to the streets in mass marches and refused to work, conducting a general strike in outrage over the death of Nasser Abu Hmeid, an assassination caused by the policy of slow killing. The Palestinian Bar Association announced that no lawyers would conduct work today, while Birzeit University announced the closing of campus to remember Abu Hmeid and support participation in the demonstrations, mourning tents and actions denouncing the policy of medical neglect and demanding the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners.

In the Gaza Strip, a mourning period of three days was declared by the National and Islamic Forces. Resistance organizations and Palestinian factions called for action and confrontation to hold the occupier accountable for this crime. Inside the occupation prisons, the prisoners’ movement also declared three days of mourning, affirming that Palestinian prisoners would return their meals for the next three days in honor of Abu Hmeid.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the martyred prisoner Nasser Abu Hmeid and extends our condolences to the family and fellow strugglers of Abu Hmeid and the Palestinian people on this latest crime of the Zionist occupation. The occupier is solely responsible for the policy of medical neglect and the taking of Nasser Abu Hmeid’s life. He is the 233rd Palestinian prisoner whose life has been taken inside the occupation prisons, including at least 74 due to the ongoing policy of medical neglect, negligence and abuse, and the refusal to provide early release or even family visits to suffering Palestinian prisoners. Abu Hmeid and his family put out a call to the people, one which we issue: to take to the streets, to confront the occupier, to stand with the prisoners’ cause and the liberation of Palestine.

There are currently 60 Palestinian prisoners with severe disease such as cancer, including Walid Daqqa, the prominent Palestinian leader and thinker, whose diagnosis was recently corrected to myelofibrosis, after a lengthy period of delay, and over 600 Palestinian prisoners — out of over 4,750 held in occupation jails — diagnosed with some form of serious or degenerative illness.

The death of Nasser Abu Hmeid also brings another ongoing crime of the occupation to the forefront: the imprisonment of the bodies of Palestinian martyrs, dating from the “cemeteries of numbers” to the 11 bodies of martyrs currently held inside the occupation’s morgues as a form of collective punishment of the entire family and the Palestinian people. Families have been campaigning for the release of the bodies of their loved ones for years; now, the Abu Hmeid family has launched an open sit-in at the entrance to Al-Amari camp to demand the return of Nasser’s body as well as those of all the imprisoned martyrs’ bodies. The family declared that they will not receive condolences for his death until his body and that of all of the martyrs is returned to his family for a proper burial.

Nasser Abu Hmeid, a fighter in the Fateh movement, was born on 5 October 1972 in the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, to a Palestinian family from the displaced village of al-Sawafir, forced from their homes in the Nakba in 1948. He spent a total of 33 years in occupation prisons and was a struggler and leader in the great popular Intifada of 1987 and then the Al-Aqsa Intifada beginning in 2000. He was arrested for the first time at 12 years old, was severely injured and wounded by bullets of the occupation on multiple instances.

As a leader in the armed struggle in Fateh, he was arrested for the last time in 2002 and sentenced to 7 life sentences and 50 years. Four of his brothers are also Palestinian prisoners: Nasr, Mohammed, Sharif and Islam; all of his brothers spent some time in occupation prisons, and one of his brothers, Abdel-Moneim, died in the struggle. The Abu Hmeid family home was demolished five times, and Nasser’s mother became a symbol of the prisoners’ families and their steadfastness. In 2021, he was diagnosed with lung cancer; since that time, he has been denied release on multiple occasions despite the severe deterioration of his health.

After the tumor in his lungs was diagnosed in August 2021, he was returned back to Ashkelon prison and subjected to further treatment delays and only received chemotherapy after the cancer had already spread throughout his body. Even in September, when the occupation’s Assaf Harofeh hospital recommended he be released as he lived his last days, he was instead sent back to the notorious Ramle prison clinic and imprisoned until his last moment.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement issued a statement:

“Our martyr, the leader Nasser, emerged from the arms of a struggling family of resistance fighters, which did not wait a day in offering its blood and energy to liberate our homeland from the destruction of the brutal, criminal occupier, which still fears Nasser as a martyr and has not dared to liberate his body after his soul was liberated from the oppression of the jailer…We bid farewell to the beloved Nasser, known on the streets of the homeland as a fighter and a struggler, who rose as a martyr as a result of medical negligence and his continued imprisonment without liberation. The time has come now to liberate our children from captivity at the hands of a criminal enemy practicing all kinds of torture and medical neglect for our children….This policy of systematic killing has not and will not weaken our resolve for one day, and we will not stop our resistace inside and outside the prison but instead this increases our certainty of the correctness of the method and our goal.”

Despite the severity of his illness and the pain of his suffering, Nasser Abu Hmeid refused to submit himself to the occupation. He refused to allow his lawyers to submit a request for a pardon to the Israeli occupation military commander, declaring that the occupier had no right or legitimacy to pardon the occupied for resisting and seeking liberation.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network underlines the full responsibility of the occupation and its backers, including the U.S., Canada, the British government and European governments, for these ongoing and systematic crimes against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian prisoners, including the policy of slow killing and medical neglect that today took the life of Nasser Abu Hmeid. His life of struggle, his refusal to break his principles in even the most severe of circumstances, and his call to stand with the Palestinian prisoners’ movement must inspire us all to rededicate our efforts to obtain liberation for all Palestinian prisoners and for all of Palestine, from the river to the sea.