Palestinian prisoners plan 'largest hunger strike since 2004'

Palestinian prisoners plan 'largest hunger strike since 2004'
Palestinian prisoners announced plans for "the largest prison strike since 2004". The move comes in protest of repressive measures imposed by Israel's prison administration following daring Gilboa prison escape months ago.
3 min read
West Bank
21 March, 2022
Around 4,400 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails, including 33 women and 160, according to human rights groups. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Palestinian prisoners are planning to launch on 25 March the "largest and most inclusive hunger strike since 2004", the president of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, Qadura Fares, told Palestinian media on Sunday.

"The coming hunger strike has great strength due to an agreement among all prisoners," said Fares, adding that it will be the first time in eighteen years that all Palestinian political factions within Israeli jails will participate.

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails announced earlier this month that the intended hunger strike aims at demanding an end to "all repressive measures imposed by the Israeli prison administration" in the past months.

"Prisoners will be protesting the restrictions imposed on them by Israeli authorities following the Gilboa prison break," Ayah Shreiteh, the spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, told The New Arab.

"Prisoners had previously staged protest actions against these measures, but those actions ended after the Israeli prison administration made agreements to cancel [these measures]," she added. "However, the Israeli prison administration violated these agreements."

Among the reported measures imposed by Israeli authorities is the transfer of the prisoners belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) across various Israeli jails. In response, the PIJ prisoners staged an open hunger strike in October that ended on the first day with an agreement to bring them back to the cells they were taken from.

Not long after, Palestinian prisons began a series of protests against the reported reduction of their daily one-hour respite in the courtyard, as well as bans on visits, a ban on the use of the prison canteen and a reduction in the quality and quantity of food, and the use of random violent searches of their cells.

Protest actions included refusing meals, refusing to step out for morning counting and refusing to go out to the courtyard.

"The prison administration introduced new restrictions a week ago," noted Shreiteh. "Prisoners are now banned from requesting for new forks or plates, while some fruits and vegetables removed from their meals as well." 

"Israeli forces continue to conduct violent raids on prisoners' cells, the last of which was in Megiddo and the Naqab prisons last week," she added. 

Live Story

Palestinian female prisoners won the right to make phone calls back in December after a series of protests. However, the Prisoners' Club reported on Sunday that the Israeli jails administration has not yet installed a public phone in the Damon prison, where all 33 female Palestinian prisoners are held.

In addition, Palestinian administrative detainees, held without charges, have been boycotting Israeli court hearings for more than 80 days, demanding an end to their detentions.

According to Shreiteh, all administrative detainees will take part in the coming strike.

"The number of prisoners joining the hunger strike on the first day is still unclear," Shreiteh said. "Prisoners' organisations are currently finalising the lists of names." 

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails regularly stage collective hunger strikes to protest their detention conditions. Collective prisoners' strikes are generally accompanied by protests of Palestinians across the Palestinian territory, often leading to clashes with Israeli armed forces.

According to human rights groups, around 4,400 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, including 33 women, 160 minors and 490 in administrative detention.