Arab shopkeepers in Jerusalem's Old City and elsewhere in East Jerusalem shut down Thursday in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, who are protesting Israel's widespread use of imprisonment without charges, Al Jazeera reported.
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The move follows similar actions in West Bank cities in support of the hunger strikers. A demonstration outside the Red Cross headquarters in East Jerusalem was planned for Thursday evening.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking him to pressure Israel into ending its practice of administrative detention.
"We call on you to call on Israel to annul the policy of administrative detention and to condition deepening your bilateral ties with Israel pending Israel's fulfilment of all its obligations," Erekat wrote in English. The UN leader recently said Israel should either try the administrative detainees – who account for some 200 out of the 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails – or release them.
Erekat said about 400 prisoners were on strike, including some 130 who have refused food for six weeks. The Israel Prisons Service, however, put the number of strikers at 250, with 80 of them hospitalized. It added that this was the longest mass hunger-strike by Palestinian prisoners ever.
The government is taking a hard line against the protest, refusing to meet their demand to do away with administrative detention, while the Health Ministry is refusing to let private doctors visit the prisoners.
The Knesset last week gave preliminary approval to a law allowing the state to force-feed prisoners, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noting that America uses the tactic against prisoners in Guantanamo.
Force-feeding is considered torture and forbidden by the Israel Medical Association’s code of ethics and various international resolutions. Doctors who force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, even if protected by Israeli law, could be successfully prosecuted abroad, the Israel Medical Association chairman told Haaretz.
“Doctors who do that are liable to be denounced by the global medical community, and it will be hard to defend them if they are prosecuted,” said Dr. Leonid Edelman.