Israeli prison doctor fears for lives of four hunger-striking Palestinians
Some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike since April 17 to protest Israeli detention policies and conditions in Israeli prisons.
There are fears for the lives of four of the thousands of Palestinians currently on hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, an Israeli Prison Service doctor said on Monday.
The Israeli Prison Service said earlier this month that some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike since April 17 to protest Israeli detention policies and conditions in Israeli prisons.
Of the four said to be in danger, Bilal Diyab, Ta'ir Halale, and Omar Abu Shlal are administrative detainees whom a military court sentenced to prison on the basis on a Shin Bet order as well as a military decree, and who demand to be either tried or released.
The fourth detainee, Muhammad Siksak from the Gaza Strip is hunger striking after being deemed an "illegal combatant" by the Israeli authorities.
The Israel Prison Service did not directly confirm the statement by the prison medical facility doctor according to which that the prisoners are facing danger, but told Haaretz that the "Israel Prison Service is obligated by law to ensure the health and safety of those in custody. Naturally, the concern for the safety of the hunger strikers keeps us busy, and much is being done, medically speaking, to ensure their safety.
"All of the hunger strikers are under medical supervision, and those who have requested full-time supervision are being held in a medical facility in Ramle. Should the situation deteriorate, the prisoners will be transferred to a public hospital, as was done in previous instances, " the Israeli Prison Service said.
Bilal Diyab, who has been striking for 67 days, was transferred on Tuesday to the Assaf Harofeh Hospital due to deterioration in his condition.
On Monday, a doctor from Physicians for Human Rights visited the prison hospital, and determined that the prisoners should be released permanently to a public hospital. According to Anat Litvin, who is an activist with Physicians for Human Rights, the Israeli Prison Service medical facility is not properly equipped for supervision and treatment of hunger strikers who are facing health deterioration. In an interview with Adalah's (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) online newspaper, Litvin described the bodily and cognitive harm caused by hunger striking at every point in their strike. Litwin also said that the Israel Prison Service doctors have a double-duty – to their patients as well as to the institution which pays their salary, which may influence their medical decisions.
Four more hunger strikers are currently hospitalized at the Israel Prison Service medical facility. One of them is Ahmad Sa'adat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who was transferred to the clinic after his health significantly deteriorated.
On Monday, attorney Jawad Boulus, who represents the hunger strikers as part of the Palestinian Prisoner Society, told reporters in Ramallah that as far as he knows, that as opposed to the negotiations which took place with Khader Adnan, the Israeli authorities are not holding any negotiations with the prisoners. Boulus was impressed with both Adnan and Hana Shalabi's hunger strikes, which were able to bring worldwide attention to the contentious Israeli policy of administrative detention.
According to the Israeli Prison Service, 300 Palestinian prisoners are currently being held under administrative detention in Israeli prisons. The policy, which dates back to the emergency laws enacted during the British Mandate period, allows Israel to detain Palestinians for renewable periods of several months, without indictment or trial.
The strikers are protesting three main Israeli policies: solitary confinement, administrative detention and the continuation of sanctions imposed before the release of abducted Israeli solder Gilad Shalit. The administrative detention policy allows Israel to jail suspected terrorists without trial for extendable six-month periods, based on classified intelligence information made available only to a military judge. The sanctions imposed as part of the pressure on Hamas to release Shalit include preventing visits from family members who live in Gaza, making conditions difficult for West Bank families visiting relatives in prison (by strip searching them, for example), canceling academic courses and what the prisoners call other collective punishments.
The prisoners are also protesting what they call humiliating measures in Israeli prisons, such as night searches of prison cells.
Boulus believes that Israel is currently calculating the potential damage that could be caused by the death of one of the hunger strikers. He believes that Israeli officials have decided that the damage caused by the death of a prisoner is small, thus there is no effort being put into preventing the death through negotiations. The Israeli Prison Service has yet to respond to Boulus' evaluation.
Jack Khoury contributed to this article.