Palestinians plan mass protests ahead of hunger strike by detainees held in Israeli prisons

Palestinians plan mass protests ahead of hunger strike by detainees held in Israeli prisons
3 min read
West Bank
24 February, 2023
Israeli authorities have cracked down on the rights of Palestinian detainees, sparking outrage across the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian prisoners announced a mass hunger strike in late March in protest against recent Israeli restrictions [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Palestinian activists are preparing a series of protests in the occupied West Bank over the coming weeks, to support a planned mass hunger strike by Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails.

The protest by the detainees will start on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in late March, and comes after Israeli authorities clamped down on the rights of Palestinian prisoners.

Recent measures undertaken by Israel include a rule allowing prisoners four-minute showers, which has sparked outrage in the West Bank.

Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians under administrative detention, a process that can see prisoners jailed indefinitely.

The head of the Palestinian Higher Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs told The New Arab on Thursday that Palestinian groups met earlier this week and prepared a series of protests, escalating towards the end of March, and the planned hunger strike.

These activities include a refusal by detainees to stand outside for head counts and a suspension of daily activities in prison sections.

The activities will "escalate to a new level", according to a statement by the prisoners' leadership made public last week by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.

The Palestinian prisoner protest began in early February, following new repressive measures introduced by Israel's extreme-right security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir.

On Tuesday, Israeli prison guards raided Palestinian prisoners' cells in the Rimon jail, using stun grenades and pepper spray, according to a statement by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.

"[Israeli] prison guard forces' raid on the Prisoners in Rimon was the continuation of authorities' escalation in recent weeks, including the restriction of shower time and water quantity last week," Amani Sarahneh, spokesperson for the Prisoners’ Club said to TNA.

"Following the raid, [Israeli] jail authorities transferred 80 Palestinian prisoners from the Rimon prison to solitary confinement in the Nafha prison," said Sarahneh.

"Transferred prisoners were put in restricted conditions, with no personal belongings or objects in the isolation cells.

"The current escalation by Israeli authorities against prisoners is the culmination of a longer escalation," pointed out Sarahneh.

"Prisoners consider it the confrontation [about] more than [just] prison conditions, but [about] the future of the prisoner movement altogether, which is why they are escalating, and if things continue as they are, a hunger strike will most probably take place”, she added.

Israeli authorities introduced a series of new repressive measures against Palestinian prisoners following the Gilboa jail break in September 2021, including the constant transfer of inmates between facilities.

Palestinian prisoners protested these measures at the time and Israeli authorities suspended some of them.

In January, Ben Gvir pledged to resume these repressive measures and introduce new ones, while he continued to lobby for the approval of the death penalty for Palestinian prisoners.

Currently, some 4780 Palestinians are held in Is jails, including 29 women, 160 children and 915 detainees without charges, under the administrative detention system, according to human rights groups.