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Palestinian prisoners protest ahead of hunger strike

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launch protests ahead of massive hunger strike
3 min read
West Bank
15 February, 2023
Palestinian prisoners have launched protest actions after the Israeli jails' authority announced on Monday further restrictions on the time and water rations for showers in the Gilboa and Nafha prisons.
Palestinian prisoners had announced a protest plan in early February in response to Israeli repressive measures. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launched a series of protests on Tuesday against the repressive measures implemented by the ultranationalist Israeli security minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said in a statement that Palestinian prisoners started their protest through a decision in early February by the Higher Emergency Committee, the united leadership body of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Protest actions include Palestinian prisoners dressing full-time in the brown prison uniform as a sign of their readiness to confront the guards, as well as coming out for morning counting with their hands cuffed and stopping all forms of regular life in jail, such as remaining in cells and closing sections as means of civil disobedience.

According to the Higher Emergency Committee's plan, the protests will further escalate up to late March, when prisoners will start a massive hunger strike on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinian prisoners launched their protests after the Israeli jails' authority announced, on Monday, further restrictions on the time and water rations for showers in the Gilboa and Nafha prisons.

In early February, Palestinian prisoners announced the protest action plan following a raid by Israeli prison forces on the cells of Palestinian women prisoners in the Damon prison.

The latest situation in prisons was triggered by Israel's security minister Itamar Ben Gvir's decision to resume restrictions and repressive measures on Palestinian prisoners, implemented by the previous Israelí government after the Gilboa prison break in September 2021. These measures also include the transfer of Palestinian prisoners between prisons every three months.

At the time, Palestinian prisoners protested and announced a massive hunger strike but called it off after an agreement was reached with Israeli jails' authority to suspend the decided measures.

In January, Israeli authorities transferred all Palestinian prisoners from the high-security prison of Hadarim to newly-built sections in the Nafha prison in the Negev desert. The transfer came days after Israel's security minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the new installations in Nafha and pledged to continue lobbying to approve the death penalty for condemned Palestinians.

The possibility of a mass hunger strike remains "dependent on the conditions at the moment of its start", Milena Ansari, spokesperson for the Palestinian Addameer Prisoner Support Association, told The New Arab.

"It's too early to know if the hunger strike will eventually happen, but Israeli authorities continue to escalate in such a way that makes the probability more likely," said Ansari.

Currently, 4,780 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails, including 29 women, 160 children and 915 detainees without charges under the administrative detention system, according to various human rights groups.

Since 1967, Around 1 million Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli authorities, representing a third of the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.