A group of Palestinian prisoners jailed on security-related offenses at Ashkelon prison are planning to begin a hunger strike on Sunday, the Palestinian Prisoners Club announced Thursday.
The prisoners have decided to take the step as a result of their failure to negotiate improvements in their conditions with the Israel Prison Service, a statement by the Prisoner Club said.
The group of 45 prisoners, mostly affiliated with the Fatah party, said that most of their demands were humanitarian in nature, and claimed that the prison service has not yet issued a response.
The demands include medical treatment and surgery for several prisoners, a halt to nighttime searches in the prison blocks and an end to sanctions that had been imposed on some of the prisoners. They are also demanding hot water in their showers, air-conditioning, longer breaks in the prison yard and access to the purchase of fruits and vegetables, as well as permission to take photos with visiting relatives.
The director of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, Qadura Fares, told Haaretz that the demands are not of the kind that require strategic decision-making on the part of the prison service or Israeli security officials and as a result, the conduct of the prison service constitutes harassment. If improvements are not introduced, Fares said, the prisoners' leadership would consider extending the strike to other prisons.
Earlier this week, Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Hamas members in Israeli prisons are threatening a hunger strike of their own after dozens of them were transferred to a prison wing where cell phone reception is blocked. At the beginning of the week, 80 prisoners were transferred to such a wing at Ramon prison.
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According to the sources, Israeli authorities have not fulfilled commitments that were made in April to install public telephones at the facility before the prisoners were transferred there. The prison service is planning to install the public phones in July, but technical problems may delay the work for several months.
For years, the prison service opposed installing public phones in the jails due to Shin Bet security service objections. But in the talks that were held to resolve a prison hunger strike that began in late March, it was the Shin Bet that proposed public phones as an alternative.
The strike was called by Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners after a Palestinian prisoner tried to stab an Israeli prison officer at the Ktzi'ot prison a day after two other officers serving there were stabbed. In mid-April, as the strike continued, the Palestinians said that some 400 prisoners were participating, but according to the prison service, only about 100 were actually returning meals uneaten.