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Israel punishes hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners

Israeli authorities look to quell mass hunger strike through solitary confinement and punitive measures.

Palestinian prisoners

Israeli prison officials have cracked down on Palestinian prisoners after more than 1,100 political detainees launched an open-ended hunger strike on Monday.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs released a statement on Monday saying that Israeli Prison Service (IPS) officials had forcibly moved hunger-striking prisoners to different sections of Israeli jails, confiscated clothes and personal belongings and placed leading figures in solitary confinement. 

Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, Karim Younis and Mahmoud Abu Srour were moved from Hadarim prison to solitary confinement in Jalama prison on Monday evening, according to the Prisoners' Affairs committee.

Barghouthi is to be "prosecuted in a discipline court" as punishment for his op-ed published by the New York Times on Monday, where he described the daily struggle of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and the ambition behind the hunger strike, the statement said.

Israeli prison officials reportedly accused Barghouthi of using his wife to “smuggle” the article out of prison and to the New York Times.

Monday's mass hunger strike was scheduled to coincide with Palestinian “Prisoners Day,” an annual event held in solidarity with the more than 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails.

Shortly after last week's announcement of the hunger strike, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan asked for the creation of a military hospital to ensure that hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners were not transferred to civilian hospitals, which have so far refused to force feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency reported.

A spokesperson for the IPS was not immediately available for comment.

But IPS spokesman Assaf Librati was quoted by the Times of Israel as saying that the hunger strikers would be disciplined.

“The prisons service has started taking disciplinary measures against the strikers and in addition a number of prisoners have been transferred to separate wings,” he said.

“It is to be emphasised that the [prison service] does not negotiate with prisoners,” he said.

In his op-ed published on Monday, Barghouti described hunger striking as "the most peaceful form of resistance available.

"It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells."

Responding to Barghouti's hunger strike, Yisrael Katz, Israeli intelligence minister, described the Palestinian leader as a "despicable murderer" and called for the "death penalty for terrorists".

Israeli authorities have arrested about one million Palestinians since 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

On Saturday, Amnesty International that "Israel’s decades-long policy of detaining Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza in prisons inside Israel and depriving them of regular family visits is not only cruel but also a blatant violation of international law".


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