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Palestinians organize sit-in protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners

March 2, 2017 6:49 P.M. (Updated: March 2, 2017 7:26 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A group of protesters on Thursday organized a sit-in in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners who have been protesting their administrative detention orders -- Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without charge or trial -- in front of the offices for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.

Fayhaa Shalash, the wife of hunger-striking prisoner and journalist Muhammad al-Qiq who has been on hunger strike for 25 days, said during the sit-in that her husband has been suffering from difficult health conditions, adding that the sit-in was organized in order to highlight “the prisoners’ cause and support their hunger strike in front of people and the international community.”

Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after he refused food for a grueling 94 days -- also in protest of his administrative detention at the time.

However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody.

Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel -- widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups -- and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said in a statement on Thursday that hunger-striking prisoner Jamal Abu al-Leil, who has been on strike for 15 days also in protest of his administrative detention order, was being held in a tight cell in Israel’s Ashkelon prison, “lacking the simplest necessities of life, emptied of electrical appliances, covers and extra clothes leaving Abu al-Leil with nothing but the clothes he is wearing.”

The statement added that Abu al-Leil has been suffering from severe head and stomachaches, dizziness and difficulties walking, as he continues only to consume water, refusing all vitamins and supplements.

The statement pointed out that Abu al-Leil has lost 11 kilograms of his weight “but is persistent on continuing his strike to the end.”

Abu al-Leil told a lawyer from the committee that he calls upon all local and international institutions to intervene and pressure Israel to end administrative detention and support him in his strike.

Abu al-Leil and Raed Mteir, 47, declared hunger strikes on Feb. 16, after being imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial for one year under administrative detention. Israeli authorities have issued six-month administrative detention orders for the two prisoners three times since they were detained.

Abu al-Leil is a former member of Fatah’s revolutionary council, while Mteir is head of the Qalandiya refugee camp youth center. Both had been previously detained by Israel several times.

Mteir has since ended his hunger strike after 12 days without food, Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun reported on Tuesday, after reaching an agreement to be released in April 2017 without his administrative detention being renewed.

Palestinian youths closed the Jerusalem-Ramallah road in the central occupied West Bank refugee camp of Qalandiya on Wednesday evening for the fourth day in a row in protest of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) perceived inaction in the cases of Abu Leil and Mteir.

While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed that the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

Rights groups say that Israel's administrative detention policy has also been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.

According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

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