Palestinian prisoners stage strike inside Israeli jails to protest 'degrading conditions', vow to escalate if demands unmet

Palestinian prisoners stage strike inside Israeli jails to protest 'degrading conditions', vow to escalate if demands unmet
Prisoners are demanding the cancellation of punitive measures introduced by Israeli authorities, including visit bans, human right groups said.
3 min read
West Bank
22 February, 2022
The protests might escalate to a full-scale open hunger strike, said the Palestinian Prisoners' Club [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails staged on Tuesday a one-day hunger strike, to protest new Israeli restrictions.

The strike was announced in a statement on Monday by the ‘Higher National Prisons Committee’, a leadership structure of Palestinian prisoners representing all political factions in Israeli jails, including rivals Hamas and Fatah. The statement, made public by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, signalled an escalation of protest moves in jails, declaring an ‘Intifada [uprising] of the prisons’.

Prisoners have been protesting for two weeks against “restrictions by the Israeli Jails service, including visit bans, reducing the already-short, one-hour courtyard time, the only time when prisoners can see the sun, and banning them from using the prison store known as the 'cantine', to buy their needs”, Ayah Shreiteh, spokesperson for the Prisoners’ Club told The New Arab.

Shreiteh said that “all these things were gains that prisoners had won in past struggles, which is why they are protesting to defend the minimum of their rights as prisoners”.

According to the prisoners' statement, their demands are the cancellation of all recent restrictions.

The protest moves include refusing to stand for the morning roll call, returning meals, and refusing to go out to the courtyard. Shreiteh noted that “these are initial steps, and prisoners might take their protest, if Israeli authorities don’t respond to their demands, to a full-scale open hunger strike”.

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A spokesperson of Palestinian prisoner support group Addameer, who asked not to be named, told The New Arab that Addameer had documented “repressive reaction by Israeli jails authorities, such as violently forcing prisoners out of their cells to search them, and placing them in solitary confinement’.

According to Addameer's spokesperson, the restrictions being protested by Palestinian prisoners were introduced in December, after two Palestinian female prisoners were put in solitary confinement for protesting random searches. Tensions boiled-up in Israeli jails, leading to a Palestinian prisoner stabbing an Israeli prison guard at the time.

One of the two female prisoners in question is 50-year-old Muna Qaadan. Her brother, Tareq Qaadan, told The New Arab that “the last time we visited her was two weeks ago, after she had come out from solitary confinement”.

“She said that she had been put in solitary confinement for five days in degrading conditions. Since then, we haven’t been allowed to visit her," he added.

In January, Palestinian administrative detainees announced their boycott of Israeli court hearings in protest against their detention without charges. On Sunday, the state-run Palestinian news agency ‘Wafa’ reported that some 450 detainees continue the boycott.

Currently, some 4500 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, including 34 women and 180 minors according to estimates by Addameer. Around 500 of them are held without charges.

Since 1967, around one million Palestinians have been detained by Israeli authorities, in degrading conditions according to human rights groups.