Palestinians demand mobilisation to save hunger-strike prisoners

Families of prisoners call for the release of their sons, held in Israeli jails under ‘administrative detention’.

Families of six Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike against Israeli administrative detention protest in downtown Ramallah on Wednesday [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera reports (20 Oct 2021) Dozens of Palestinians staged a protest at the al-Manara Square in downtown Ramallah on Wednesday, calling for the release of six prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, some of whom are at imminent risk of death.

The six prisoners embarked on open-ended hunger strikes to protest being held on “administrative detention” orders – an Israeli policy that allows detaining Palestinians indefinitely based on “secret information” – without pressing formal charges or putting them on trial.

The demonstration was attended by the families of the prisoners, who hail from various cities in the occupied West Bank, as well as local civil society and prisoner groups.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS), said, “this battle that our heroes are undergoing is every Palestinians’ battle”.

“We are standing in front of a very dangerous scenario today. We are calling for national mobilisation – in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the 1948-occupied territories,” he said during the protest.

“Israel wants to turn us into a population that asks for civil rights, not national rights,” said Fares, adding hundreds of prisoners are threatening to participate in an-open ended strike starting on Thursday.

On Tuesday, prisoner Miqdad al-Qawasmi, who has refused food and drink for 91 days, was moved to the intensive care unit at the Israeli Kaplan hospital near Ramle. His lawyer, Jawad Bulous, said his health deteriorated rapidly and he “faces sudden death”.

Qawasmi’s father said his son is on a hunger strike to secure his liberation. “Those on hunger strike represent the epitome of freedom,” he said.

‘Verge of death’

Prisoners Alaa al-Araj, 75 days, and Hisham Abu Hawwash, 65 days, were also moved from the Ramle prison clinic to Israeli hospitals on Tuesday after their health deteriorated. Their whereabouts remain unknown, even to their families.

“We couldn’t sleep all night yesterday when we heard that Alaa was moved to hospital,” his mother, Nabila al-Araj, told Al Jazeera at the protest.

“He is on the verge of death,” said Nabila, who came from the northern town of Tulkarem to attend.

She said Alaa, a father of a five-year-old boy, is suffering and is “unable to stand, to talk, to see”, explaining that doctors are particularly worried about his nervous system.

Israeli authorities have prevented the family from seeing their son since his arrest on June 30.

“Is the world waiting for them to bring back my son dead?” she asked.

Nabila said her son was “at the top of his class” before being arrested, and he graduated with a degree in civil engineering from al-Najah University in Nablus.

On Tuesday, Israeli courts rejected a petition by lawyers to freeze Alaa’s administrative detention order.

Israel currently holds 520 Palestinian prisoners under administrative detention, a practice that dates to the British occupation of Palestine.

Kayed Fasfous, who has been on hunger strike the longest – 98 days – is languishing in Israeli custody at Barzilai hospital in Asqalan (Ashkelon).

Speaking at the protest, his brother said Kayed is in “very dangerous condition” and could die at any moment.

“Kayed was an athlete with distinction. He weighed 95kg (209 pounds) before his hunger strike. He has now lost more than half of his weight,” Kayed’s brother said, explaining he refuses any kind of medical checkup, vitamins or supplements.