According to the Palestinian Minister of Detainees, a one-day hunger strike was held on Monday to protest the conditions where Palestinian prisoners are being held by Israeli authorities, including medical negligence, prevention of family visits, poor food quality, and the continual imposition of fines on prisoners who, because they are imprisoned, have no means to pay.Minister Issa Qaraqi said that 7,000 Palestinian prisoners participated in the hunger strike. Around 8,000 total Palestinian prisoners, including several hundred children, are believed to be held in Israeli detention facilities. At least 1,000 are being held without charges, in so-called ‘administrative detention’.
As the hunger strike was held inside the detention centers, supporters gathered in several West Bank and Gaza Strip cities in advance of the annual ‘Prisoners Day’, held each year on April 17th, and to call for the release of all Palestinian prisoners – a call which represents one of the three core demands of the Palestinian people, along with a state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of Palestinian refugees.
The Arab News website reports that, “Palestinian prisoners [have] held dozens of hunger strikes since the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967. Abdulqader Abu al-Fahem was the first Palestinian prisoner to die after 15 days of a hunger strike at the Asqalan prison in 1970. The prisoners Rasim Halaweh, Alial-Ja’fari and Ishaq Maragheh died in the Nafha prison in 1980 after 32 days. The prisoners Anees Douleh and Hussein Obaidat died in 1992 after 15 days.”
In addition to calling for better conditions overall, the prisoners also demanded the release of Akram Mansour, who is suffering from a brain tumor, as well as back and kidney problems.
Mansour, like many of those imprisoned by Israeli authorities, is serving a long sentence for vague charges that he “resisted the Israeli occupation” of Palestinian land.
One prisoner is being held by Palestinian resistance groups, including Hamas, which blames Israel for the breakdown of a prisoner-swap deal that would have seen the release of several hundred Palestinian prisoners (around 5% of those held) in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit (the only Israeli held by Palestinian groups).