Islamic Jihad threatens to expand hunger strike in Israeli prisons

Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders praise Iran for supporting ‘resistance’ against Israel.

 A guard is seen at an observation tower along a wall of Gilboa Prison, from where six Palestinian prisoners escaped, on September 6. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A guard is seen at an observation tower along a wall of Gilboa Prison, from where six Palestinian prisoners escaped, on September 6.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad said on Thursday that its prisoners will not halt their hunger strike unless their demands are met by the Israeli authorities.

The Iranian-backed terrorist group said that dozens of its inmates are expected to join 250 PIJ prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Israeli prisons for the past nine days. PIJ has at least 400 prisoners in Israeli prisons.

The PIJ prisoners are protesting a series of punitive measures imposed on them by the Israel Prison Service following the escape of six inmates from Gilboa Prison last month.

Five of the escapees, who were recaptured days after the prison break, belong to PIJ. The sixth, Zakariya Zbeidi, is a member of the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mahmoud al-Ardah, described as the “commander and mastermind” of the prison break, has joined the hunger strikers, his brother, Shaddad al-Ardah, said on Thursday.

 POLICE OFFICERS and prison guards stand outside the Gilboa jail following the escape by Palestinian security prisoners. (credit: FLASH 90) POLICE OFFICERS and prison guards stand outside the Gilboa jail following the escape by Palestinian security prisoners. (credit: FLASH 90)

The PIJ inmates are demanding that the authorities rescind their decision to transfer them to various prisons. They claim that some of the PIJ prisoners have been placed in solitary confinement as a punishment for the escape of their friends.

Thabet Mardawi, a veteran PIJ prisoner, was quoted as saying his group is considering escalating the protests in light of the Israeli authorities’ refusal to comply with the demands of the inmates. Mardawi said dozens of PIJ prisoners are expected to join the hunger strike if the demands are not met by Thursday.

Palestinian sources said that prisoners belonging to Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions have thus far refused to join the hunger strike.

The factions, however, said their prisoners may join the hunger strike at a later stage, the sources said, adding that PIJ officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip expressed “disappointment” over the decision.

PIJ representatives claimed that the hunger strike launched by the prisoners was taken “with the consent of all Palestinian factions.”

“Islamic Jihad is preparing to expand the hunger strike so that it would include prisoners from all Palestinian factions,” said one PIJ representative. “They are protesting a series of abusive measures imposed by the authorities, including the transfer of many prisoners to other prisons and holding several others in solitary confinement.”

The PIJ representative claimed that the prisoners are facing immense pressure from the authorities to end the hunger strike.

Meanwhile PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah and senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya briefed Iranian officials on the latest developments surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the conditions of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

Nakhalah and Hayya arrived in Tehran earlier this week to attend the 35th International Conference on Islamic Unity. The two held a series of meetings with Iranian officials on the margins of the conference.

Attended by Islamic “scholars” from 52 countries, the one-week conference was held under the banner “Peace and Avoiding Division and Conflict in the Islamic World.”

Addressing the conference, al-Nakhalah praised Iran for its ongoing support for the Palestinians in their fight against Israel.

“The support of Iran, and the continuation of this support at all levels, has played the most prominent and important role in our ability to confront and continue the resistance against the Zionist enemy,” he said.

Nakhalah said that “the hostile US-led Western attack [on Muslims] targets all components of our nation and constitutes an imminent danger to our nation and our civilization.”

He called on all Muslim countries to support the Palestinian “resistance” and “mobilize all their energies towards liberating Jerusalem in order to foil the [US-led] onslaught.”

The war between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups last May “is nothing but further evidence of our people’s ability and resistance, which did not stop for one day, to confront the Zionist project,” Nakhalah added. “The final victory over the Zionist entity requires an Arab and Islamic renaissance and a true Islamic unity.”

Hayya, the top Hamas official, also praised Iran for its continued support for the Palestinian terrorist groups.

He told the conference that Israel was proceeding with its “plan to Judaize Jerusalem and alter the status quo” at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

“We fear that one day we will wake up and find that the occupation and the Zionists have completely taken control of al-Aqsa or have destroyed it and expelled the Muslims from the city of Jerusalem,” the Hamas official said.