Israeli forces assault, transfer hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners on 11th day of strike

As some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners entered the 11th day of the mass “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike, Israeli Prison Service (IPS) forces on Thursday attacked two hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners being held in southern Israel’s Ashkelon prison, according to the Media Committee for Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike — a joint committee formed by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) and Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs.

A lawyer from the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, Kareem Ajwah, said in a statement that that the two prisoners, Nasser Abu Hmeid and Saed Musallam, who is ill, were attacked by IPS forces when they refused to stand for a search after the forces stormed into the prisoners’ room.

While Abu Hmeid and Musallam were directly attacked, three other prisoners in the room were injured on the face and head, and were moved to the prison’s clinic for treatment.

Separately, quoting Abu Hmeid, Ajwah reported that IPS administration has been “conducting internal trials” for hunger-striking prisoners, imposing a series of punitive measures and fines of up to 500 shekels for anyone participating in the strike, in addition to moving prisoners to solitary confinement for up to 10 days at a time.

“The condition of striking detainees are very difficult, due to the continued daily raids and storms of the prisons’ administration in an attempt to exhaust and humiliate the prisoners”, Abu Hmeid said, adding that IPS has taken away salt — which in addition to water, is the only nutrition consumed by Palestinian hunger strikers — from all striking prisoners “as a means of pressure to end the strike.”

Abu Hmeid told the committee that striking prisoners have been boycotting medical examinations, highlighting that two prisoners identified as Nazih Uthman, who has heart disease, and Ibrahim Abu-mustafa , who has kidney and liver disease, were both moved by force to the prison’s field hospital.

Meanwhile, IPS transferred some 40 Palestinian prisoners from the Negev-area Nafha, Rimon and Ketziot prisons to the Ohalai Keidar prison in Beersheba Thursday morning.

Sources from inside Israeli prisons told Sawt al-Asra (Voice of Prisoners) Radio that IPS forces “emptied section 8 of the Beersheba jail and moved in prisoners that had been transferred from other prisons,” without equipping the section with any essentials for the prisoners.

According to Sawt al-Asra, several of the transferred prisoners are participating in the open hunger strike and have been moved to the same rooms as non-striking prisoners, who are mostly ill.

Some of the transferred prisoners were identified as Raed al-Saadi, Yusri al-Masri, Samer al-Issawi and Azzam Thiab.

An IPS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said on Wednesday that IPS forces had “continued to escalate punitive measures” against prisoners, which started on the first day of the strike, with IPS forces transferring prisoners and leaders of the strike to solitary confinement, and preventing lawyers from visiting prisoners, particularly sick prisoners.

According to Qaraqe, IPS officials have continued preventing prisoners — some of whom are refusing all forms of nutrition except salt and water — from accessing commissaries to purchase salt, provided prisoners with dirty sheets and covers, and carried out provocative search raids of prisoners rooms, and arbitrary transfers of prisoners.

Separately, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners for the second day in a row on Thursday at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel. ICRC officials had visited prisoners in Nafha prison on Wednesday.

Head of the ICRC in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Christian Cardon, said in a statement that the committee would be arranging additional visits to other hunger strikers during the coming days.

Cardon said “we are well aware that we are the only communication point for hunger-striking prisoners with the outside world.”

He added that verbal messages were transmitted between hunger-striking prisoners and their families via the ICRC.

Hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel have been participating in the hunger strike led by senior Fatah official Marwan Barghouthi since April 17 to protest the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention — internment without trial or charges.

A general strike was held across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem on Thursday, as thousands of Palestinians shut down their shops and businesses in solidarity with the prisoners.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released last week by Palestinian organizations. According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of March.