Minister: Prisoners threaten to revive mass hunger strike
Published Sunday 03/06/2012 (updated) 04/06/2012 17:20
Boys stand near a banner depicting hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners
during a protest supporting the prisoners, in Jerusalem.
(Reuters/Ammar Awad, File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are threatening to restart a hunger strike if Israeli prison authorities continue to violate the agreement that ended their mass strike last month, a PA minister said Sunday.
Prisoners affairs minister Issa Qaraqe said the prisoners would launch another open hunger strike unless Israel takes measures to implement the deal.
Around 2,000 prisoners joined a mass hunger strike launched on April 17 to demand fair prison conditions, according to prisoners groups' estimates. Another group of prisoners held in administrative detention launched an earlier strike in protest at their detention without charge.
Prisoners' representatives signed an agreement with Israeli authorities on May 14 for prisoners to halt hunger strikes and "security activity" inside Israeli jails in exchange for Israeli "facilitation" on policies toward solitary confinement, family visits and living conditions.
At the time Prisoners Society chief Qaddura Fares said that under the deal Israel committed not to renew the administrative detention of all 322 Palestinians held without charge if there is no new information that requires their imprisonment.
However, Fares warned: "Who can check this new information ... no one can be sure."
On Sunday, Qaraqe told a Ramallah press conference that Israel had continued to renew detainees' administrative detention terms "in order to punish them and show the world that their hunger strike failed."
The minister also said detainees who were part of the hunger strike had been banned from making purchases at a prison shop, and detained patients continued to suffer medical neglect.
Israeli prison facilities lack specialized doctors and necessary medical equipment, he said, noting that 18 Palestinians in Israeli jail are currently suffering from cancer.
Qaraqe also warned that a detainee who remained on hunger strike after the deal was in a dangerous health condition.
Mahmoud al-Sarsak, a former national soccer player, has been on hunger strike for 77 days to protest his detention without charge since since July 2009.
He is the only prisoner in Israel being held under the "unlawful combatant" law, which is only applied to residents of Gaza and foreign nationals.
Al-Sarsak needs surgery in his right eye and Israel offered to release him to to Germany for treatment, his brother Imad told Ma'an earlier.
Al-Sarsak rejected the deal, under which he would be forced to spend three months in Germany before being allowed to return home, his brother said.
Israel also offered to release al-Sarsak in August but he also rejected that offer, demanding to be freed immediately, his brother said.