Palestinian Hunger-strikers' Health Deteriorating After 38 Days, Say Prisoners

One inmate says strikers in Israeli prisons being held in small rooms with filthy sheets infested with bugs, not able to change clothing

Women demonstrating in front of pictures of jailed Palestinian prisoners in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers in Gaza City, May 4, 2017.
Adel Hana/AP

The medical condition of dozens of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners is deteriorating and many more prisoners have been hospitalized over the past two days, representatives of the strikers said Wednesday.

Some 40 prisoners had been moved from the Ohalei Kedar Prison to hospitals around the country, and 20 have been taken from Hadarim Prison to Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Administration statement.

Lawyers who had met with some of the prisoners said the information accumulating from the prisons is very worrisome and indicates especially severe detention conditions. In addition to prisoner transfers being made under difficult conditions, the Palestinian Prisoners Club quoted prisoner Mohammed Alul, who has been on hunger strike since the beginning (38 days), saying the prisoners were being held in small rooms with filthy sheets that are filled with bugs and aren’t able to change clothing.

Attorney Hanan Alhatib said the Israel Prison Service is not supplying information about the prisoners’ conditions, and that ambulances are now stationed regularly at the prisons to bring prisoners to the hospital or to the prison clinic.

Expected crisis to be settled during Trump visit

The prisoners’ families and the Palestinian Prisoners Administration expressed great disappointment that the crisis wasn’t settled during the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, because it is known there were efforts to exert some international pressure to end the strike during his stay. Hunger strike leader Karim Yunes sent a message through his brother, an attorney, stressing that the strike would continue until the prisoners’ demands are met. According to Yunes, the authorities are demanding that the strike stop before the demands are discussed.

The prisoners’ two primary demands are for more frequent family visits and for prisoners to be allowed to speak to their families on public phones under supervision.

Meanwhile, MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) and the Adalah Center for Arab Minority Rights petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday against a decision by the Knesset House Committee, along with the orders of the Prison Service Commission, to forbid MKs from visiting security prisoners. The petitioners demanded that the prison service allow Jabareen to immediately visit Marwan Barghouti, one of the hunger strikers’ leaders. Attorney Muna Haddad of Adalah argued that the visits were crucial and that blocking them frustrates proper parliamentary oversight of the prisoner’s detention conditions, which, she noted, is even more important during a hunger strike.

“The reports and complaints being received of violations of the prisoners’ rights at this time require parliamentary inspection. The refusal to enable a meeting with Barghouti, with no explanation and in violation of the law, constitutes a serious undermining of an MK’s right to travel freely throughout the country. In addition, the refusal undermines the right to operate freely and independently in the course of performing his duties.

“We are getting reports of serious violations of the hunger-striking prisoners’ rights, and it is my right and my duty to check these things out as part of my work as an MK,” said Jabareen. “It is my job as an elected official to monitor the Israel Prison Service’s conduct and it is inconceivable to forbid me to visit prisoners.”