Over two thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention centers began their third week of hunger strike on Tuesday, along with seven men and one woman who have been on hunger strike for over thirty days. Two of the hunger strikers, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, marked their 63rd day on hunger strike on Tuesday, and both are near death according to human rights groups.The hunger strikers are demanding an end to the Israeli practice of ‘administrative detention’, in which Palestinians are held without charges for months and years at a time. They are also calling on Israel to end the use of ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, to stop using solitary confinement as a form of punishment, and to provide proper medical treatment for prisoners.
There are over 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prison camps, many of whom are in ‘administrative detention’ and have never been charged with a crime.
The two prisoners who are on the 63rd day of their hunger strike both had their appeals denied by an Israeli court last week. They have appealed these verdicts, and their cases will be heard by the Israeli High Court on Thursday. Both prisoners are in administrative detention which means the Israeli authorities have not brought charges against either prisoner.
International and Palestinian human rights groups have called on Israel to release Diab and Halahleh, and to address the concerns of the hunger strikers. Until Monday, Israeli authorities have been unwilling to meet with any hunger strikers to hear their concerns.
On Monday, the director of the Israeli Prison Service, Aaron Franco, met with strike leaders in Hadarim Prison in central Israel. One of the prisoners in that meeting was Fateh activist Marwan Bargouhti, who spearheaded the ‘Prisoners Letter’ calling for Palestinian national unity in 2008.
The hunger strike movement began in December with Khader Adnan, who nearly died after 67 days on hunger strike. Israeli authorities eventually agreed to release him, and many Palestinian prisoners decided to continue the strike to push for changes in the Israeli prison system and legal codes which allow Palestinians to be held without charge.