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Issue #1774      April 26, 2017

Palestine

Hunger strike

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli prisons have launched a hunger strike in what their leader behind bars called a new step in the Palestinians’ “long walk to freedom.”

Activists said more than 1,500 of about 6,500 Palestinians held by Israel as so-called security prisoners joined the open-ended protest and that it was the largest such strike in five years. The hunger strikers’ immediate demands included better conditions, including more contact with relatives, and an end to Israel’s detentions without trial.

In the West Bank and Gaza, thousands staged solidarity marches to mark Prisoners’ Day in the Palestinian areas. The hunger strike was led by Marwan Barghouti, a prominent figure in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.

Barghouti was arrested in 2002 during the Palestinian uprising and convicted on multiple counts of murder. Israel charged him with directing suicide bombings against its citizens and he was sentenced to five life terms.

In an op-ed published in The New York Times, Barghouti wrote that Israeli prisons have become the “cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination.”

“This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom,” he wrote.

Israel’s prison service said Barghouti had been transferred to a different prison. Israel media reported that Barghouti had violated the conditions of his incarceration by communicating with the newspaper and that he had likely smuggled the text out through his lawyer.

The hunger strike was launched as the approaching half-century mark of Israeli rule over Palestinians appeared to generate renewed interest in the long-running conflict, which in recent years was often overshadowed by war and turmoil elsewhere in the region.

Abbas and his supporters seek a Palestinian state, in the pre-invasion 1967 lines. In Gaza City, about 2,000 people turned out for a march. This massive strike sends a strong message to Israel; after 50 years of occupation, suppression and oppression, that the prisoners will lead their people from behind bars.

Qadoura Fares, who runs the Prisoners’ Club advocacy group, said over 1,500 prisoners joined the strike and that more were expected to follow.

In 2012, hundreds participated in a large-scale strike that lasted 28 days, said Fares. In 2014, dozens of detainees who were being held without trial or charges staged a two-month-long hunger strike to demand their release.

People’s World

Next article – Unity efforts continue

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