|PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah 370 (R).(Photo by: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)|
Abbas warns Israel over hunger strikers
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND TOVAH LAZAROFF
"The case of [hunger striking] prisoners is not only a political issue, rather it is a humanitarian issue," PA president says.
The Palestinian Authority will not remain silent if any of the hunger striking
Palestinian prisoners are harmed, President Mahmoud Abbas warned on
Abbas’s warning came during a visit he paid to a tent set up in
El-Bireh, next to Ramallah, by families of Palestinian prisoners in solidarity
with their sons.
“The case of the prisoners is not only a political
issue,” Abbas told the families.
“Rather, it is a humanitarian issue. The
prisoners are demanding humanitarian treatment.”
Abbas said that there
would be no solution to the conflict unless Israel released all Palestinian
prisoners. “Even if we agree on all the sticking issues, the case of the
prisoners will remain the first and that’s why it is always on our agenda,” he
He also urged the United Nations to do more on behalf of
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who are on a hunger strike.
made his plea to Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East
peace process, when the two men met in Ramallah to discuss the stalled peace
process and other Palestinian issues, including the striking
Abbas’s office said that the meeting with Serry focused on the
Some 1,600 prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger
strike on April 17, to protest the conditions under which they are held, which
were harshened during the time that soldier Gilad Schalit was held in captivity
Additionally, eight Palestinians held under administrative
detention have been on a more prolonged hunger strike, on which two – Bilal
Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahleh, 34 – have reached their 73rd day.
conversation with Serry, Abbas urged the UN to make more efforts to save the
lives of the hunger-striking prisoners, a spokesman for Abbas said after the
Serry told Abbas that he was concerned about the situation and
that it needed to be urgently resolved.
He is one of a number of UN
officials who have spoken out in support of the hunger strikers, most
specifically about those in administrative detention.
commissioner- general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees,
called on Israel to bring them to trial or set them free. He added that he
believed that Diab and Halahleh are in danger of death. UN Secretary- General
Ban Ki-moon issued a similar call on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning,
Palestinian activists blocked a UN building in Ramallah. They held up signs that
said, “Unfair, unjust.” They chanted, “UN Judaized.”
A protest near Ofer
Prison, on the outskirts of Ramallah, turned violent as activists clashed with
IDF soldiers and border police. Three Palestinians and one international
activist were injured.
Earlier this week, the High Court of Justice
rejected a petition by Diab and Halahleh to be released. It said it believed
both men were a security risk and that a hunger strike was not a factor in
assessing the detention.
Physicians for Human Rights- Israel sent a
letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israel Medical Association, the
Prisons Service and Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, asking that those prisoners
striking for more than 40 days be transferred from the Prisons Service Medical
Center to a civilian hospital.
An Israeli official said that every effort
was being made to end the hunger strike. The official added that prisoners,
particularly those jailed for violent acts against Israelis, could not be
released because of the strike.
This is an effort by the Islamic Jihad
and Hamas to free their members, he said.
Israel’s treatment of its
prisoners is in compliance with international law, norms and conventions, the
The prisoners’ requests go far beyond what is required
under international law, he said.
The official added that administrative
detention was legal under international law and that other Western democracies
use this procedure.