A Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike began on Monday, April 8, to highlight brutal prison conditions after weekend negotiations with the Israel Prison Service (IPS) collapsed.
The Dignity Strike, which is supported by all major Palestinian factions, began with five prisoners from Rimon, al-Naqab (Negev) and Nafha prisons.
By Tuesday, April 9, some 400 Palestinian detainees were refusing food. That number is expected to grow to 1,500 as Palestinian Prisoners Day – April 17 – approaches.
Prisoners are demanding better prison conditions, including an immediate end to cell raids, access to public telephones and family visits, and the removal of cell phone-jamming devices that have allegedly caused headaches and fainting.
Gilad Erdan, head of the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, said on Saturday, April 6, that Israel would not cede to prisoners’ demands.
We’re prepared to reinforce the medical teams in the prisons so that there won’t be a need to evacuate the prisoners and flood the civilian hospitals [with patients], he said.
Over the past several months, the Erdan-led ministry has reduced prisoners’ water allotment and installed phone-jamming devices.
It is the largest hunger strike since April 2017, when some 800 Palestinian detainees refused food for one month.
There are currently 5,450 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention, including more than 200 children and 500 detainees who have not yet been charged with a crime.
Unsuccessful weekend negotiations
The hunger strike came on the heels of failed negotiations with IPS, chief of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Media Office Nahed al-Fakhouri told Quds News Network.
IPS negotiators reneged during talks over the weekend, al-Fakhouri said.
The prisoners had been negotiating many issues with the [IPS] … , but the Israeli officers changed their minds about the understandings in the last moments, he said.
Lana Ramadan, International Advocacy Officer for Addameer, a Palestinian NGO that advocates for Palestinian prisoners’ rights, said the talks failed because the IPS imposed stringent demands that detainees refused to assent to.
On Sunday, April 7, the IPS agreed to install public phone[s] in all prisons, then drew back … and informed [negotiators] that … prisoners have to provide the [IPS] with the [phone] numbers of people they want to call prior to making the phone call, Ramadan said.
The prisoners felt that this was just a way to circumvent … their demands and as a result they launched the hunger strike, she added.
The failed negotiations may have been a result of Israeli political pressure on the IPS ahead of the April 9 general election, the Palestinian Prisoners and Former Prisoners’ Affairs Committee stated.
Wasfi Qabha, a Hamas official, told Arabi21 News that Egyptian negotiators began working with Israel to end the strike ahead of election day, but then suspended the pre-election negotiations at the request of Israeli officials.
The negotiations will resume on Wednesday, April 10, Middle East Monitor reported.
Source: Palestine Monitor