Palestinian prisoners begin hunger strike

2,300 Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP, prisoners return meals, demand end to Israel's administrative detention.

PALESTINIANS RALLY in Ramallah for Prisoners Day 370 (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
PALESTINIANS RALLY in Ramallah for Prisoners Day 370
(photo credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
Some 1,200 Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails announced the start of a hunger strike on Tuesday, to mark the Palestinian Authority’s “Prisoner Day.”
A further 1,100 prisoners returned their daily meals on Tuesday, but did not say they were beginning a hunger strike, the Prisons Service said.
Eight pro-Palestinian activists who arrived in Israel on Sunday as part of the “flytilla,” and who are awaiting deportation at a holding facility in Givon, said they too would return their meals to identify with the security prisoners.
“We’ve dealt with hunger strikes in the past, and we’re prepared for them now as well,” the Prisons Service said.
On Monday, a Prisons Service source told The Jerusalem Post, “The threat of a hunger strike is always there. Should it be fulfilled, we are ready to deal with it. No special preparations are necessary.”
Before Tuesday’s announcement by the prisoners, the Prisons Service was aware of seven Palestinian hunger strikers, most of whom are at its medical clinic in Ramle, where their fluid levels and weight are being monitored by doctors.
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip marked Prisoner Day by holding a number of rallies in solidarity with the striking prisoners.
However, families of the prisoners expressed disappointment with low turnout at most of the rallies, noting that last year more Palestinians took to the streets to voice their support for the prisoners.
PA Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqi said that 1,600 prisoners were originally slated to participate in the hunger strike, but the number dropped because of political differences between the inmates. He predicted that the number would rise in the coming days.
The hunger strike was initiated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Fatah prisoners have refused to join the hunger strike at this stage.
In a rare show of unity, Hamas and Fatah supporters held a rally at Hebron University in the West Bank on the occasion of Prisoner Day. Speakers at the event urged Palestinians to stand behind the striking prisoners and stressed that there would be no peace until all prisoners are released from Israeli prisons.
In a message to the Palestinians, PA President Mahmoud Abbas demanded that the prisoners held in Israel be treated as prisoners of war. He praised the prisoners as heroes and urged them to unite their ranks in prison.
Addressing the prisoners, Abbas said: “I talk to you from the bottom of my heart to assure you that your case is in my heart, mind, conscience and existence. I carry your case wherever I go and it is at the top of my list of priorities. We will not be comforted until you gain your freedom.”