A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday visited Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, who has been leading an estimated 1,600 on a mass hunger strike since April 17, in his solitary confinement cell in the Gilboa prison, near Nazareth in northern Israel.
Barghouthi’s wife, Fadwa Barghouthi, said in a statement that the ICRC was able to visit her husband on Thursday — 25 days into the hunger strike — noting that lawyers have been banned from visiting him since the strike began.
“I wish I had any news to assure you on his condition,” Fadwa said, highlighting that the ICRC only told her and her family that they visited her husband, and that “he sends his regards to her and the family,” without providing any more details regarding his health condition or whether he is able to move or not.
Despite the lack of detailed information on Barghouthi’s condition, the media committee of the hunger strike reported on Thursday that the health conditions of the hunger strikers were severely deteriorating, as prisoners experienced difficulty moving, severe dehydration, stomach aches, headaches, irregular heartbeats, and low blood pressure.
Barghouthi has been leading the strike among Palestinian prisoners, who are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial — among other demands for basic rights.
He has been held in solitary confinement since the start of the strike, as Israeli authorities have continually attempted to discredit Barghouthi in order to dismantle the leadership of the movement and break the steadfastness of the hunger strikers.
On Thursday, Palestinian rights groups sent a joint letter to Israeli authorities demanding that a criminal investigation be opened against Israeli officials who published footage of Barghouti purportedly eating in his cell earlier this week.
“The aim of the video is to humiliate Marwan Barghouthi and distort his image in front of the public. The prison service has no jurisdiction to monitor prisoners by installing cameras in their cells — except when necessary to maintain the safety of prisoners when they are in danger. But not to take footage of them and release it to the media,” the letter read.
On Wednesday, the Palestine Prisoners’ Center for Studies said it was told by Palestinian prisoners in Negev prisons that several hunger strikers were shown pictures of Barghouthi eating during their court proceedings.
According to the center, the prisoners were told by Israeli Shin Bet officers “Marwan lets you starve while he eats,” almost directly reiterating comments made by Israeli officials during the strike in 2004 to delegitimize Barghouthi.
Despite the numerous attempts to break the will of the hunger strikers and discredit Barghouthi, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, Gaza and throughout the diaspora have continued to hold demonstrations and acts of 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 Palestinian organizations.
According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been detained by Israeli authorities at some point in their lives. Rights groups have long accused Israel of using routine imprisonment as a tool to erode family and political life in the Palestinian territory.