Palestinian prisoners say they 'scored a victory' as hunger strike suspended

Palestinian prisoners say they 'scored a victory' as hunger strike suspended
"Prisoners have been in a constant battle with [Israel's] prison services since the Gilboa prison break, and this time it was the highest point in that confrontation so far," the spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners' Cub said to The New Arab.
5 min read
West Bank
23 March, 2023
2,000 Palestinian prisoners were scheduled to join the hunger strike on Thursday [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails suspended their massive hunger strike which was launched on Tuesday, the 'Higher Emergency Committee of the National Prisoner Movement', the Palestinian prisoners' unified leadership body, said in a statement on Thursday.

"We have forced the Zionist enemy to halt the repressive measures it intended to impose on us," read the statement. "By the help of God, their own unity and the support of their people, the prisoners have scored a new victory."

Late on Wednesday, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club and the Palestinian Commission for Prisoners' Affairs announced in a joint statement that "after the halting of Israeli repressive measures against the prisoners, an agreement was reached to suspend the prisoners' hunger strike."

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli prison services transferred seven Palestinian prisoners from their cells in the Rimon prison to an unknown location.

The seven Palestinians are members of the 'Higher Emergency Committee', who launched the hunger strike on Tuesday. Around 2,000 more Palestinian prisoners were scheduled to join them in refusing food on Thursday.

"We still don't know their whereabouts, and we are still worried, getting our information from the news," Bayan Hanatsheh, the wife of Waleed Hanatsheh, one of the seven members of the prisoners' leadership transferred by Israeli authorities on Wednesday, said to The New Arab.

"During our visits in the past months, Waleed told us, his family, about their worsening detention conditions as a result of the occupation's repressive measures," she said.

"Their shower time was cut to less than four minutes, their meals deteriorated in quality and quantity, their time in the courtyard was cut to under half an hour a day, and their cells were raided and violently more repeatedly," she described.

"As families, we are relieved that the strike was suspended," Hanatsheh added. "Waleed hadn't recovered from the Israeli torture he went through in 2019 and 2020, and he has several health complications. His health would have been devastated if he would have gone through with the hunger strike."

This is the third time Palestinian prisoners declared a massive hunger strike to resist Israel's imposition of new restrictions on detention life since the Gilboa prison break in September 2021.

"We can say that prisoners have been in a constant battle with the occupation's prison services since the Gilboa prison break, and this time it was the highest point in that confrontation so far," Amani Sarahneh, spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, said to TNA.

"The occupation's government knows very well that the prisoners' hunger strike can mobilise the streets at a moment of high tension, especially during the month of Ramadan," she pointed out.

"During the past year and a half, the prisoners have recovered a degree of national unity between all factions that they haven't had since 2004, which is an achievement," she added.

On Thursday, a Palestinian human rights source who asked not to be named told TNA that "the agreement was not made between the prisoners and the Israeli prison services, but with the Israeli government directly."

"At each time, prisoners were faced with a special Israeli committee to deal with them, with the prison services at the other end of any agreement, which was then broken by the next Israeli government," explained the source.

"This time, there was a representative of Netanyahu's office at the negotiations and continued until 10:00 pm on Wednesday," the source added.

Palestinian prisoners launched a series of escalating 'disobedience' protest actions in early February. The 'disobedience', which went on for 36 days, leading up to the hunger strike, included making noise disturbances at night, a refusal by prisoners to step out for counting, eat certain meals and leave cells at courtyard time. 

Israeli prison services responded by transferring dozens of Palestinian prisoners between jails, placing others in isolation and increasing search raids on their cells.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Knesset voted in early March on a bill to allow the death penalty for Palestinian prisoners. The bill was admitted into a parliamentary debate with an overwhelming majority of 55 to 9. It still has to pass first and second readings before taking effect as law.

Currently, there are 4,780 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, including 29 women, 170 children and 1,000 detainees without charges, according to human rights groups.