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Palestine hunger strikers moved to jails with field hospitals: Rights body

The file photo shows an ambulance leaving Israel’s Sharon Prison near Raanana. (By AP)

A prisoners’ rights group says all hunger-striking Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails have been transferred to three detention facilities with field hospitals as the protesters’ health conditions are deteriorating.

In a Wednesday statement, Head of Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said an estimated 1,300 hunger strikers had been transferred from across dozens of Israel’s prisons and concentrated into the Beersheba, Shatta and Ramla prisons “due to their proximity to Israeli hospitals.”

The Palestinian activist added that all the three facilities are equipped with in-prison field hospitals set up since the beginning of the strike.

“This step indicates the seriousness of the health conditions of the hunger strikers,” Qaraqe noted.

In an interview with the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, a spokesperson for the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), however, dismissed the report, saying that only strikers from Ketziot and Nafha prisons had been transferred to Beersheba prison “in order to be closer to central Israel, in the case that they need to be treated at a hospital.”

The mass protest action, dubbed the “Freedom and Dignity” strike, began on April 17 in response to a call by Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader. The protesters are angry at inhumane conditions in Israeli prisons.

The strikers are demanding basic rights, such as an end to the policies of administrative detention, solitary confinement and deliberate medical negligence. The much criticized administrative detention is a policy under which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.

After a month of taking nothing but salt water, many strikers are growing increasingly weak. Reports say they are considering also refusing water since their demands have not been met.

 Palestinian protesters wave their national flags and portraits of prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, during a demonstration in solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in front of the Israeli-run Ofer prison, in the West Bank village of Betunia, April 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A recent Palestinian media statement warned that striking detainees have “entered a critical health condition,” marked by chronic vomiting, vision impairment, fainting and an average weight loss of 20 kilograms.

The prisoners have also been denied family visits, and face continuous arbitrary prison transfers in an IPS attempt to break up the strike, according to the statement.

Speaking at a Wednesday meeting of the UN’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, Deputy Observer for the State of Palestine, warned about rising “despair” among the Palestinian detainees as the regime in Tel Aviv continues to ignore their most basic demands.

She called on the committee to voice solidarity with the protest movement launched by prisoners against Israel’s illegal occupation and the degrading conditions in Israeli prisons.

Back in 2012, a similar hunger strike, involving some 2,000 Palestinian inmates, ended after an agreement was reached with Israeli authorities to terminate the policy of internment without trial or charge.

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