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Palestinians urge boycott in solidarity with hunger strikers

Women walk past pictures of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails in the West Bank city of Nablus, May 9, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The committee of Palestinian prisoner families in the West Bank city of Nablus has called for the boycott of the upcoming municipal elections in a show of solidarity with a mass hunger strike by Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails.

On May 13, Palestinians will go to the polls to choose 3,849 members of municipal and village councils across the West Bank. 

Nagham al-Khayat, the wife of hunger-striking prisoner Yasser Abu Bakr, said that the elections should be delayed until the end of the strike.

“We are not against elections, but we have demanded that they be postponed until after the end of the prisoners’ hunger strike, to no avail,” al-Khayat said.

She also demanded “all those who still have a conscience boycott local elections on Saturday for the dignity of Palestinian prisoners.”

Khayat further urged the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities vis-a-vis the the inmates refusing food to obtain their basic rights.

Separately, the municipality of Hebron (al-Khalil) sent letters to the municipalities of 20 sister cities across the world, detailing the harsh conditions in Israeli prisons and the suppressive measures used against the Palestinian hunger strikers.

The photo shows the letters sent by the municipality of the West Bank city of Hebron to its 20 sister cities across the world in support of the Palestinian prisoners. (Photo by Ma'an news agency)

Hebron Municipality head Nader al-Bitar said the letters had called on the 20 municipalities to ask their respective governments to exert pressure on the Tel Aviv regime.

The open-ended mass hunger strike, dubbed the Freedom and Dignity Strike, began on April 17 to denounce inhumane treatment in Israeli jails. It is led by a jailed leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement, Marwan Barghouti.

Since April 17, more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have joined the protest action, dubbed the Freedom and Dignity Strike. 

ICRC delegate visits Barghouti for first time

In a relevant development on Thursday, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told AFP that a delegate from the humanitarian organization had visited Barghouti for the first time since the strike began.

A Palestinian runs past a poster bearing a portrait of hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The spokesman did not provide an update on the strike leader's health "in accordance with the principles of medical confidentiality."

The ICRC had been allowed access to other hunger-striking prisoners, but Israel had prevented access to Barghouti.

Sit-in in Damascus

Additionally on Thursday, Syrian people held a sit-in outside the ICRC office in the capital, Damascus, in support of the Syrian and Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails.

In a letter delivered to ICRC's head of delegation in Syria Marianne Gasser, the protesters called on the humanitarian organization to assume its responsibilities and put pressure on the Israeli authorities to meet the legitimate demands of the prisoners, on top of them Syrian inmate Sedqi al-Maqt.

Maqt was released in 2012 after spending 27 years in Israeli jails over alleged terrorism charges. However, he was re-arrested in 2015 for allegedly spying for the Syrian government.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails, 536 of them arbitrarily, according to figures provided by the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer in January.

Palestinian inmates complain that they have been subjected to assault and torture at Israeli prisons.

They have continuously resorted to hunger strike in an attempt to voice their anger at the so-called administrative detention, which is a form of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months.

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