Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to go on hunger strike

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are expected to embark on hunger strikes this week to draw attention to imprisonment without charge and solitary confinement. They will build on a protest that has resulted in deals to release two inmates who refused food for prolonged periods. At least 11 prisoners are already on hunger strike, three of whom have been transferred to hospital. One began refusing fluids last week, increasing concern about the rate of deterioration of his health.

A wave of hunger strikes is planned to begin on or around Prisoners' Day on Tuesday, held under the slogan: "We will live in dignity." About 1,600 prisoners have agreed to take part in the protest, according to Palestinian prisons minister Issa Qaraqi. "The situation inside Israeli prisons has become very dangerous and serious," he was quoted as saying. There are around 4,600 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, according to the prisoners' rights group Addameer. More than 300 are held under "administrative detention", meaning they and their lawyers are not informed of accusations or evidence against them, no trial is held, and their term of imprisonment is determined by an Israeli military judge.

Of the 11 prisoners currently on hunger strike, two have refused food for 46 days. Bilal Diab, 27, who has been held under administrative detention since last August, has also refused fluids either orally or intravenously since 8 April, and has lost consciousness a number of times, according to Physicians for Human Rights. PHR has urged the Israeli authorities to grant Diab's request to be transferred to a civilian hospital and has cited World Medical Association advice that "the body is unable to survive without liquids for more than a few days, and in most cases a hunger striker will die during the first week".

Thae'r Halahi, 34, has been held in administrative detention for 22 months, plus for five separate previous periods of between three months and one year. His condition was described as stable but commensurate with a prolonged period without food. Khadar Adnan, the first prisoner to begin a hunger strike in the current wave, refused food for 66 days before agreeing to a deal that should see him released this week after four months in administrative detention. Adnan, 33, was followed by a woman prisoner, Hana Shalabi, who was released and deported to Gaza after 43 days on hunger strike. Her family home is in the village of Burqin, near Jenin, in the north West Bank.

She considered herself "not deported but freed to Gaza", where she had never been before, she told the Guardian. "It's a victory for me." But she acknowledged that she had come under pressure from the Israeli authorities to accept the deal and end her protest, amid fears that her life was in danger. Hunger strikes were, she said, "a good and effective tool, and the only way prisoners can achieve something". She is still suffering from weakness and swollen legs since ending her protest, and is under medical supervision. "Physically it was hard, but morally I was high," she said. Shalabi, 30, had previously been held for 25 months under administrative detention, but was freed in October under the prisoner exchange deal struck by Israel to secure the release of the captured soldier Gilad Shalit. She was re-arrested on 16 February...

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