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Sick Palestinian prisoner transferred to hospital as mass hunger strike enters 4th day

April 20, 2017 3:53 P.M. (Updated: April 22, 2017 4:41 P.M.)
A graphic for the "Freedom and Dignity" strike depicting high profile Palestinian prisoners Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubaki
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Israel Prison Service (IPS) transferred ill hunger-striking prisoner Said Musallam to the Barzilai Hospital after his health condition deteriorated, a Palestinian lawyer said on Thursday, as a mass prisoner hunger strike entered its fourth day.

Karim Ajweh told the Media Committee of the “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike that he had been informed of a number of hunger-striking prisoners who had been transferred to and from the Ashkelon prison, including Musallam, who suffers from pre-existing heart issues.

Ajweh added that several sections of the prison had also been raided by Israeli authorities, which confiscated prisoners’ personal belongings.

IPS officials have implemented a number of measures against Palestinian prisoners since the hunger strike began on Monday, suspending family visitation rights, forcibly moving hunger-striking prisoners in between prisons or into solitary confinement, confiscating and damaging prisoners’ personal belongings, and banning the prisoners from watching TV.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported on Wednesday that hundreds of prisoners had been transferred into solitary confinement, while scores were transferred in between prisons.

Musallam is one of seven sick prisoners who joined the hunger strike despite the serious impact it could have on their health. IPS officials have cracked down on the group, confiscating most of their belongings and leaving them with just three blankets, one pair of underwear, one small towel, and one toothbrush for the seven men to share.

Israeli authorities also prevented lawyers from meeting with hunger-striking prisoners earlier this week, although PPS legal unit head Jawad Boulos said on Wednesday that following an official complaint filed by the group, the Israeli Ministry of Justice had informed IPS that it was illegal to ban prisoners from accessing their lawyers.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Boulos said that IPS would once again allow lawyer visits “under certain conditions,” with potential visitation bans to be implemented under “justified exceptions.”

Meanwhile, Israeli forces suppressed a march in support of the hunger strikers outside of the Ofer prison in the central occupied West Bank on Thursday afternoon, firing rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at dozens of protesters.

At least three people were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets, while others suffered from tear gas inhalation, witnesses said, adding that Palestinian youths responded by throwing Molotov cocktails, rocks, and empty bottles.

Israeli forces also assaulted several Palestinian journalists causing, injuring a number of them, including cameraman Islam al-Sarafandi, who fainted at the scene.

Witnesses also said that an unidentified Palestinian youth was detained by Israeli soldiers at the scene, claiming that he was only walking in the area and hadn't been participating in the clashes.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that they were looking into the reports.

Israeli forces have repressed a number of demonstrations and events in support of the hunger strikers this week in both occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In Israel, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel -- the term used by Israelis to refer to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship -- called for a one-day solidarity hunger strike to be held in the town of Arraba, in northern Israel.

Initially called for by Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since pledged their commitment to undertake the strike, with the media committee of the “Freedom and Dignity” strike estimating on Tuesday that some 1,500 prisoners were forgoing food.

The hunger strikers have denounced the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges -- which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released on Saturday by Palestinian organizations.

Meanwhile, Palestinian police spokesman Adnan Dmeiri estimated in a statement on Thursday that Israeli forces had detained more than 3,436 members of Palestinian security forces since 2011, 500 of whom remained behind bars.

According to prisoners' rights organization Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of March.
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