A general view of apartment blocks under construction is seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit in 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

6 Palestinians injured in West Bank clashes with Israeli troops


Six Palestinians were wounded in a series of clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

The clashes Friday came amid a so-called day of rage in support of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons, The Times of Israel reported.

In the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, three people were injured by live fire, the Palestinian humanitarian group said. Another three were injured in Beit Omar, near Hebron. All are in stable condition, a spokesperson for the group said.

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment, The Times of Israel reported.

Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have been striking for over a week over demands for better medical care and greater access to telephone calls.

Detention of Jewish extremist Meir Ettinger extended


The administrative detention of Meir Ettinger, the suspected head of a right-wing Jewish terrorist cell, was extended by four months.

On Monday, while the detention of Meir Ettinger was extended with the approval of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, according to reports, the detention of right-wing Jewish extremist Eviatar Slonim was ended. Slonim reportedly will be released in the coming days, though with conditions.

Ettinger, who is being held in an Israeli jail without specific charges and started a hunger strike in protest, and Slonim were arrested in August 2015 for suspected extremist activity.

The grandson of the slain far-right extremist Meir Kahane, Ettinger reportedly has lost consciousness several times since beginning his hunger strike two weeks ago. Slonim, a dual citizen of Israel and Australia, joined the strike shortly after.

Administrative detention is generally used against Palestinians, and allows Israeli authorities to hold suspected terrorists for six months at a time without filing formal charges. The detention can be renewed indefinitely.

Ettinger, who reportedly was transferred recently to solitary confinement, was arrested for “involvement in violent activities and terrorist attacks that occurred recently, and his role as part of a Jewish terrorist group,” according to Israeli authorities.

In December, lawyers for the two detainees accused the Shin Bet security service of torturing them, a charge Shin Bet leaders and Israel’s defense secretary denied.

Ettinger’s  arrest was linked to the firebombing of a home in the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma that left an infant and his parents dead. Three people, including two minors, have been charged in connection with the attack.

Shin Bet officials have said Ettinger heads a movement that also was responsible for the June arson of the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, and seeks to bring down the government and replace it with a Jewish theocracy.

Second alleged Jewish terrorist in detention begins hunger strike


Eight days after alleged Jewish terrorist Meir Ettinger launched a hunger strike to protest his administrative detention, a second detainee reportedly has started his own strike.

Eviatar Slonim, a dual citizen of Australia and Israel who was arrested in August, joined Ettinger in the hunger strike, according to the Times of Israel. Slonim has been held without charges since his arrest for alleged “extremist activity.”

Both Slonim and Ettinger, the grandson of the late far-right activist Meir Kahane, are under administrative detention, which is more commonly used for Palestinian prisoners. One can be held for six months without being charged or tried, and the order can be renewed indefinitely.

Ettinger, who reportedly was transferred recently to solitary confinement, was arrested for “involvement in violent activities and terrorist attacks that occurred recently, and his role as part of a Jewish terrorist group,” according to Israeli authorities.

His arrest was linked to the firebombing of a home in the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma that left an infant and his parents dead. Three people, including two minors, have been charged in connection with the attack.

Shin Bet officials have said Ettinger heads a movement that also was responsible for the June arson of the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, and seeks to bring down the government and replace it with a Jewish theocracy.

On Sunday, Ettinger’s grandmother Libby Kahane, the widow of Meir Kahane, submitted a letter to The Jerusalem Post expressing concern about her grandson’s health and denying he had committed any crime.

“If there were any evidence that my grandson Meir committed a crime, he should be put on trial on in open court,” she said, according to the Post, recalling that her “late husband was jailed under those same despicable administrative detention orders in May 1980.”

“My grandson has not been tried in court because he has not committed any crime. What he has done is not considered a crime in any democratic country. He expressed unpopular views in a blog he wrote on the Hebrew website ‘Hakol Hayehudi.’ Simply put, the powers-that-be don’t like the way he thinks.

“Is Israel turning into a totalitarian state?” she asked. “What is happening to our beloved Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East?”

Hunger-striking Palestinian journalist reportedly near death


A Palestinian journalist who has been on a hunger strike in an Israeli jail for two months is near death, his attorney said.

Muhammad al-Qiq is unconscious, on the verge of organ failure and could die at any minute, his attorney from the Palestinian Authority told the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Al-Qiq, 33, has been on a hunger strike for 61 days in protest of being held by Israel in administrative detention since Nov. 24. He says he was tortured during interrogation, according to reports.

Under administrative detention, a prisoner can be held for six months without being charged or tried. The order can be renewed indefinitely.

“Israel has to be aware that it will pay a heavy toll if Muhammad dies in custody,” Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Authority’s commission of detainees and ex-detainee affairs, told Maan.

Qiq reportedly is accused of incitement and working with media associated with Hamas. He has been hospitalized at HaEmek Hospital in Afula for the last month.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel has accused the hospital of pressuring Qiq to end his hunger strike and treating him without permission, including forcing him to take nutrition intravenously.

An Israeli law passed in July allows the force-feeding of prisoners, though it has yet to be invoked.

Qiq has been jailed by Israel before, including a month in 2003 and 13 months in 2004, AFP reported. In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 months on charges linked to his activities on the student council at the West Bank’s Birzeit University, according to AFP.

 

Re-jailed Palestinian hunger striker ends second fast after two days


Mohammad Allaan, the Palestinian prisoner who went on a 65-day hunger strike this summer, stopped a second fast after two days.

Allaan, 33, who was released from Israeli administrative detention in August and re-jailed this week, announced Friday he had suspended his fast for health and legal reasons, The Times of Israel reported.

An alleged member of the Islamic Jihad terror group, Allaan sustained brain damage from his hunger strike this summer, which was in protest of being held without charges since November.

Allaan, who is in a prison in Ramle, in central Israel, is currently unable to walk and is in a wheelchair, according to the Palestinian media outlet Ma’an.

He decided to restart his hunger strike once he was returned to custody, Reuters reported, citing a relative of Allan.

Allaan ended his hunger strike last month after Israel’s Supreme Court suspended, but did not cancel, his administrative detention order over his declining health due to fasting. It is unclear whether the brain damage Allaan suffered is permanent.

His hunger strike prompted Israel to pass legislation last month permitting force-feeding. The Israeli Medical Association has said it plans to challenge the law in the Supreme Court and urged physicians not to comply with it. Doctors in two Israeli hospitals refused to perform tests and provide nutrition to Allaan without his consent.

Israel offers to free Palestinian hunger striker in November


Israel has offered to free Mohammed Allaan, a Palestinian prisoner on a hunger strike, in November, should he end his strike.

His lawyers, according to reports, rejected the offer.

Allaan, an alleged member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, is under administrative detention — or imprisonment without trial. He has been refusing food since June 16 to protest his imprisonment.

On Friday, Allaan was placed in a medically induced coma after his condition deteriorated, and was awakened Tuesday after his condition stabilized. He agreed to accept intravenous fluids for a 24-hour period to allow time for a deal to be reached. Allaan said he will stop accepting fluids if Israel does not agree to free him.

He rejected an earlier Israeli offer to free him on condition that he live abroad for four years. Allaan is demanding to be freed immediately, but had previously said he would end the strike if he is released in time for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on Sept. 22.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported that 250 Palestinian administrative detainees began a hunger strike in support of Allaan.

Palestinian detainee ends 65-day hunger-strike


Palestinian detainee Mohammed Allan ended his 65-day hunger strike against his detention without trial on Wednesday after the Israeli Supreme Court suspended his arrest warrant, his lawyer said.

Allan has sustained brain damage as result of his hunger strike and is hospitalized in Israel in critical condition. The court said that in his current condition he poses no threat and therefore suspended his arrest warrant.

The 31-year-old Islamic Jihad activist's case was being monitored closely by opposing sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had looked likely to boil over into new violence if Allan were to have died as result of his strike.

“The story is over, administrative detention is cancelled and therefore there is no strike,” Allan's lawyer, Jameel Khatib, told Reuters.

The Israeli government saw his hunger strike as a powerful challenge against “administrative detention”, a practice that has drawn criticism from Palestinians and human rights groups but which Israel calls necessary for its national security.

It fears his release would only encourage some 370 other Palestinian detainees held without charge to refuse food.

The court said Allan was to stay at the Israeli hospital where he was being treated.

Before Wednesday's court session got under way, Allan's lawyers said that in return for an end to the strike, Israel had pledged not to renew his six-month detention period, meaning he would go free on Nov. 3.

The hospital said Allan's condition had deteriorated since he was brought out of sedation on Tuesday. His attorneys said he did not respond to the proposal.

In court, a government lawyer said Israel was prepared to free Allan immediately if a scan carried out while court was in session showed that he had suffered irreversible brain damage and subsequently no longer posed a security threat.

But the scan results were not conclusive. Barzilai hospital chief Chezy Levy told reporters it showed some brain damage and it was not yet clear whether it was “completely reversible”. He said it was possible Allan would recover.

On Tuesday Allan instructed medical staff to halt intravenous treatment, but then agreed vitamins could be administered in the run-up to the court hearing.

Allan's case was originally seen as a possible test of Israel's new force-feeding law, which the country's medical association has condemned as a violation of ethics and international conventions. But doctors have said that option is no longer viable due to his grave condition.

Last week supporters of Allan clashed with Israeli right-wingers near the hospital. Israel has long been concerned that hunger strikes by Palestinians in its jails could end in deaths and trigger waves of protests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian prisoner in Israel ends 55-day hunger strike


A Palestinian jailed in Israel ended his 55-day hunger strike after Israel agreed to free him.

Khader Adnan, 37, stopped the strike on Sunday night after Israeli authorities said they would release him in two weeks, his attorney told the Palestinian news agency Maan. Israel agreed after Adnan withdrew his demand that Israel guarantee that it would not rearrest him.

The announcement came days after the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern that Adnan was near death.Adnan was protesting his being held in administrative detention, without charge or trial. Other prisoners also joined the strike.

A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to six months. The detention can be renewed indefinitely.

It is the second time that Adnan has undertaken a prolonged hunger strike. In 2012, he went on a 66-day strike to protest his administrative detention. Adnan was later released in exchange for ending his hunger strike.

He has been held by Israel since being rearrested nearly a year ago for “activities that threaten regional security.”

The decision to release Adnan comes as the Knesset debates versions of a bill that would allow the force feeding of hunger-striking prisoners.

Dozens of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners moved to Israeli hospitals


At least 40 Palestinians in Israeli prisons have been hospitalized in Israel following a hunger strike lasting more than a month.

None of the prisoners had a life-threatening condition, an Israel Prison Service spokesman told The New York Times on Wednesday.

But the Palestinian Authority’s minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqe, told the Voice of Palestine radio station on the same day that the condition of the prisoners was “very dangerous,” the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

“Most are vomiting blood and fainting,” Qaraqe told the radio station. “They cannot walk, they are in terrible pain. We are afraid some will die if the situation continues.”

More than 200 other prisoners have joined the ongoing hunger strike, according to Maan, and as many as 20 prisoners plan to join the strike each day.

On Wednesday, nearly 500 other Palestinian prisoners participated in a one-day hunger strike in solidarity.

The prisoners are protesting administrative detention, under which Israel can hold prisoners for six months at a time without charge or trial. Administrative detention can be renewed.

Nearly 200 Palestinians are currently being held under administrative detention, according to Maan.

Palestinian prisoners hold solidarity hunger strike on ‘Catastrophe Day’


Several hundred Palestinian prisoners in Israel went on a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who have refused food for three weeks.

Wednesday’s strike comes on the Gregorian anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day, which Palestinians observe as Nakba Day, or “the catastrophe,” in which they mourn the creation of Israel and the ensuing displacement of Palestinians.

The strikers is in solidarity with a three-week strike held by 85  — A group of 85 administrative detainees — Palestinian prisoners who have been arrested but not yet tried — has been on a hunger strike, the Times of Israel reported. Israeli law allows administrative detention for up to six months.

Also Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in London in an effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to the Times of Israel. Israel suspended the talks in April after Abbas’ Fatah party signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, the terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister and lead negotiator in the talks, also will be in London on Wednesday to meet with William Hague, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, according to Haaretz. An attempt in Britain to have Livni arrested for war crimes was denied, as she has received “special mission” status from the British government.

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails lauch hunger strike over dead inmate


More than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have launched a hunger strike over the death of a Palestinian inmate from cancer.

The inmates sent back their food on Wednesday morning to protest the death of Maysara Abuhamdieh, 64, of esophageal cancer. Many also had sent back their meals on Tuesday afternoon in what has been declared a three-day hunger strike.

Maysara Abuhamdieh, 64, died Tuesday at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Palestinian officials and Palestinian human rights organizations accused the Israel Prison Service of withholding medical treatment.

A Palestinian observer is set to be present Wednesday at Abuhamdieh's autopsy; He will be buried in Hebron on Thursday,

Prisoners reportedly banged on their cell doors and threw objects at guards upon hearing of Abuhamdieh's death. The riots occurred at Eshel Prison, where Abuhamdieh had been imprisoned, as well as at Ramon, Nafha and Ketziot prisons. Palestinians also threw firebombs and rioted in the Hebron area, according to Army Radio.

Abuhamdieh, believed to be working for the terrorist group Hamas, was sentenced to life in prison for recruiting an operative to carry out a 2002 suicide bombing attack on a Jerusalem café.

He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in February, and placed under medical supervision. The prison service last week requested a pardon for Abuhamdieh, after determining that his cancer was terminal. He died before the procedure could be completed, according to reports in the Israeli media.

Two Palestinians end hunger strike that fueled protests


Two Palestinian prisoners whose hunger strike stoked clashes in the West Bank have ended their protest after Israel agreed to release them in May, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

The men were among four prisoners held without formal charge in an Israeli jail who have refused to eat for between three and six months.

Their worsening state, coupled with the death of another Palestinian in detention on Saturday, fueled the violence in which at least six Palestinian protesters were shot and badly wounded, less than a month before U.S. President Barack Obama is due to visit the West Bank town of Ramallah and Jerusalem.

“Jaafar Izzedine and Tarek Qaadan have paused their hunger strike,” said Qadura Fares, head of an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners.

He confirmed that Israel had agreed to release them on May 21 and said an Israeli court was expected to ratify the deal early next month.

Israel holds 178 Palestinians as “administrative” detainees – jailed without trial as suspected militants for renewable three to six-month terms based on classified evidence.

An Israeli official with the Prisons Authority confirmed that Izzedine and Qaadan had stopped their fast but did not comment on whether a deal was reached to free them.

Palestinian and Israeli officials are still seeking a deal for the other two prisoners, Samer al-Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh.

They are being treated in Israeli hospitals after months of intermittent hunger strikes against their re-arrest after having been freed in a 2011 prisoner swap with Israel.

“The Israeli side has begun dialogue today to find a solution to this issue, but so far they have not presented an acceptable offer,” the Palestinian minister of prisoners, Issa Qaraqa, told reporters, adding that Issawi and Sharawneh had refused an offer to be freed and deported.

At least six Palestinian protesters were wounded this week in clashes with Israeli troops after Arafat Jaradat died while being interrogated in an Israeli jail on Saturday.

A United Nations rights envoy called for an independent inquiry into Jaradat's death on Wednesday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for calm and said Israel should either put the Palestinians in its custody on trial or release them.

Palestinian officials said the corpse of Jaradat, who was 30, bore signs of torture, but Israel has said the autopsy was inconclusive.

Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Tom Pfeiffe

Palestinian protesters for hunger strikers, Israeli soldiers clash again


At least 1,000 Palestinians demonstrated near a West Bank prison — the latest rally in support of inmates on long-term hunger strikes.

The protesters threw stones at Israeli security forces and burned tires after being stopped at the military checkpoint in the West Bank Palestinian town of Beitunia, according to reports. They were marching to the Ofer Prison near Ramallah.

Police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Two Israeli journalists were injured by stones during the clashes. At least 29 Palestinian protesters also were injured by rubber-coated bullets, according to the Palestinian Ma'an news service.

Protests in support of the four hunger strikers have been held throughout the West Bank since last week.

The four long-term hunger strikers are being held in administrative detention, under which a prisoner can be held without charges for up to four months. The administrative detention also can be renewed.

Samer Issawi, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 200 days and is said to be near death, was scheduled to be in a Jerusalem court Thursday seeking his release from administrative detention.

Issawi was released in the 2011 prisoner swap to free captive soldier Gilad Shalit but was later rearrested.

Several reported wounded in riots in support of jailed Palestinians


Several people were injured in West Bank protests staged in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

An Israel Defense Forces soldier was lightly wounded on Feb. 15 near Baytuniya checkpoint north of Jerusalem. Several hundred protesters pelted the checkpoint with stones and other objects, the news site Ynet reported.

Several of the demonstrators were also wounded and some inhaled tear gas fired by the Israeli troops

According to Army Radio, the crowd gathered at the checkpoint in solidarity with several Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike at nearby Ofer Prison.

One of them is Samer al Issawi, who is being held indefinitely under administrative detention rules.

A resident of the eastern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Isawiya, he was one of the 1,027 Palestinians released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier whom Hamas abducted in 2006 and held until 2011.

Most of the prisoners were released to the Gaza Strip, although many were from the West Bank.

According to reports in Palestinian media, el Issawi was arrested for breaking the condition of his release by visiting the West Bank.

Other rallies were reported in Hebron, at the Jalame crossing north of Jenin, at Nebi Salah, as well as in Qalandia north of Jerusalem.

Imprisoned Palestinian soccer player will end fast


A soccer player from Gaza held by Israel without trial for nearly three years has agreed to end his three-month hunger strike in exchange for hospital treatment and an early release, his lawyer said on Monday.

Mahmoud al-Sarsak, 25, was detained under Israel’s “unlawful combatants” law, and is the latest of a number of Palestinian prisoners to end fasts after winning guarantees of release from their Israeli jailers.

“There has been a written agreement with the Israeli side for him to be released on July 10 and to be moved for medical treatment to a civilian hospital,” Sarsak’s lawyer Mohammed Jabarin told Reuters.

“There had been a substantial deterioration in his health and he needs special care. He will not return to prison,” Jabarin added.

Israel’s Prisons Authority had no comment.

Israel detained Sarsak on suspicion of having ties with the Islamic Jihad militant group. He was held under a law introduced after it pulled troops out of Gaza in 2005 which permitted Israel to jail “unlawful combatants” without trial.

He denies the allegation, and has never been formally charged.

Sarsak, who has played for the Palestinian national team, was detained while he was leaving Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave ruled by the Islamist Hamas faction, to travel through Israel to join teammates in the occupied West Bank.

Sarsak began his hunger strike a few months ago to protest his detention, but has intermittently ingested fluids such as milk and a glucose drip, Jabarin and Israeli officials said.

Israel struck a deal last month with representatives of 1,600 Palestinian prisoners to end hunger strikes of up to 27 days, agreeing to demands to stop solitary confinements, allow family visits and improve prison conditions.

Israel has also freed three other prisoners in the past few months, ending lengthy hunger strikes on their part.

The Palestinian Football Association had raised Sarsak’s case with international soccer authorities and appealed to them to prevent Israel from hosting the European under-21 championships next year, but the request was rejected on Monday.

Michel Platini, the president of UEFA, European soccer’s governing organization, said he had asked the Israeli soccer body to raise Sarsak’s case with the government but the tournament would go ahead as planned.

“I am sure the (head of the Israeli FA) will alert his country’s authorities as quickly as possible to the great concern caused…” he said in a letter to Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association.

“The Israel FA earned the right to host this tournament… We cannot hold (it) responsible for the political situation in the region or for legal procedures in place in its country.”

Israeli and Palestinian teams do not compete against each other as the Israelis play their matches in Europe while the Palestinians are members of Asia’s soccer body.

Additional writing by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Myra MacDonald

Palestinian inmates agree to end hunger strike


Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails agreed on Monday to an Egyptian-brokered deal aimed at ending a mass hunger strike that challenged Israel’s policy of detention without trial and raised fears of a bloody Palestinian backlash if any protesters died.

Most of some 1,600 prisoners, a third of the 4,800 Palestinians in Israeli jails, began refusing food on April 17 although a few had been fasting much longer – up to 77 days.

Their protest centered on demands for more family visits, an end to solitary confinement and an end to so-called “administrative detention”, a practice that has drawn international criticism on human rights grounds.

Palestinian officials said Egypt had drafted an agreement in Cairo with representatives of the Palestinian prisoners, and that inmates met during the day and had agreed to the terms.

There was no immediate word from the prisoners as to whether any had actually ended their strike.

An Egyptian official involved in the talks said that under Monday’s deal to end the strike, Israel had agreed to end solitary confinement for 19 prisoners and lifted a ban on visits to prisoners by relatives living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel also agreed to improve other conditions of detention, and to free so-called administrative detainees once they complete their terms unless they are brought to court, the Egyptian official said.

Gaza’s Hamas leaders hailed the strike as a successful campaign against Israel and celebrations quickly spread to the streets where motorists honked horns, and passersby embraced and shouted “Allahu Akbar,” the Arabic for “God is great.”

“This is a first step toward liberation and victory,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Islamist group.

Israel saw the deal as a goodwill gesture to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds sway in the West Bank, a territory separate from Islamist-ruled Gaza. The territories, where Palestinians want a state, were captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel had “negotiated an end to the strike” in answer to a request from Abbas.

“It is our hope that this gesture by Israel will serve to build confidence between the parties and to further peace,” Regev said.

The hunger strikers included militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which reject peace with Israel, as well as members of Abbas’s Fatah group.

PLEDGES TO EASE CONDITIONS

Israel’s Prisons Authority, confirming the deal to end the prisoners’ action, said “an agreement has been signed to bring about the end of a 28-day hunger strike by Palestinian security prisoners.”

Prisoners who sign a commitment “not to engage in actions contravening security inside the jails” would have prison conditions eased.

In a statement, the Israeli authority said that improvements for such prisoners would include a lifting of solitary confinement and a possibility of relatives visiting from Gaza.

Relatives’ visits from Gaza were suspended after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants and taken to Gaza in 2006. He was released last October in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Israel did not say whether it would free any administrative detainees, but pledged in its statement that an inter ministerial team would look at prisoner requests and issue recommendations.

Around 320 of Palestinian prisoners are held in “administrative detention”, a security measure Israel defends as a precaution to protect undercover sources.

Many of the other prisoners have been convicted of serious crimes, including murder. Palestinian leaders say they should be treated as prisoners of war, something Israel rejects.

Israel says the detentions without trial are necessary because some cases cannot be brought to open court for fear of exposing Palestinian intelligence sources who have cooperated with Israel.

Palestinians jailed by Israel are held in high esteem by their compatriots, who see them as heroes in what they term a struggle against occupation.

Two inmates who helped to launch the strike, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla of Islamic Jihad, were in the 77th day of their fast on Monday.

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court turned down their request to be freed from detention without trial but said security authorities should consider releasing them for medical reasons.

A month ago, Israel released hunger striker Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad member, amid concern he would die. He agreed to end his fast after 66 days in exchange for a promise not to renew his detention.

Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Jihan Abdallah in Ramallah and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; Editing by Rosalind Russell

Palestinians escalate hunger-strike in Israel jails


Hundreds of Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli jails said on Friday they would shun vitamin supplements and prison clinics in an escalation of their mass protest against detention conditions.

“We swear we will not retreat. We are potential martyrs. Either we live in dignity or die,” prisoner organizers said in a letter announcing the move and which was read out by Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Islamist Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, during a demonstration.

An estimated 1,600 inmates out of 4,800 launched the hunger strike on April 17 to demand improved conditions in Israeli custody, such as an end to solitary confinement and more family visits. They have also challenged Israel’s policy of indefinite detention without charge of suspected Palestinian militants.

The fate of the hunger strikers has touched a raw nerve among Palestinians, with daily support rallies in the West Bank and Gaza, and political leaders warning that Israel could face new violence should any prisoner die.

Dozens of Palestinians, including militants and politicians who had served terms in Israeli jails in the past, have gone on hunger strikes in tents put up in solidarity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which witnessed daily heavy attendance by residents and visitors from Arab and foreign countries.

The prisoners include Islamists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which reject peace with the Jewish state, as well as members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular and Western-backed Fatah movement.

Israel says all prisoners receive adequate medical attention, including in civilian hospitals if required.

A Prisons Service spokeswoman said there was no immediate sign of the hunger strike being stepped up.

“As of now, I know that those who should be receiving extra care are receiving it,” the spokeswoman, Sivan Weizman, said.

Defending its so-called “administrative detention” policy, Israel says some cases cannot immediately be brought to open court for fear of exposing Palestinian intelligence sources that have cooperated with Israeli security organs against militants.

Two inmates who helped launch the hunger strike, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla of Islamic Jihad, were in the 74th day of their fast on Friday.

Anat Litvin of Physicians for Human Rights in Israel quoted Halahleh’s doctor as saying his death could be imminent.

“What is very worrisome is the fact that he said that he doesn’t want to be saved if something happens to him and he loses consciousness,” Litvin said, adding that the Prisons Service’s medical facilities might prove inadequate.

“They don’t have the equipment, they don’t have the expertise; constant follow-up that is very much needed is not available,” she told Reuters Television in Tel Aviv.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners moved to hospital


Two hunger-striking Palestinians in Israeli jails have been moved to an Israeli hospital in poor condition, their lawyer said.

Bilal Diab, 27, of Jenin, and Thaer Halahla, 33, of Hebron, are at risk of death, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency. Both have marked their 63rd day without food. Eight other prisoners also have been hospitalized.

Israel’s Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal against their detention without charge on Thursday, according to Ma’an.

A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months; it can also be renewed.

Some 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are on an open-ended hunger strike launched two weeks ago. The mass hunger strike is calling for an end to solitary confinement and isolation; for allowing families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit their loved ones; and allowing prisoners to have newspapers, learning materials and specific television channels. It is also protesting administrative detention.

Israeli prisons commissioner Aharon Franco on Monday told Palestinian hunger strikers that he had named a panel to address the prisoners’ demands, according to Arab news sources.

More than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, with some 320 in administrative detention.

Two high-profile hunger strikers were released earlier this year after cutting deals with Israeli authorities.

Israel punishes Palestinian hunger-strikers


Israel has taken measures against some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike, denying them family visits and separating them from inmates not taking part in the protest, prison authorities said on Monday.

The open-ended strike, dubbed the “battle of empty stomachs” by organizers, began last Tuesday. The prisoners are demanding better jail conditions and for Israel to end detention without trial for Palestinians suspected of security offenses.

“Privileges such as family visits have been revoked and items such as electronics have been confiscated,” Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Prisons Authority, said.

Palestinian prisoners have long complained of the difficulty of securing family visits and the invasive searches visiting relatives have to go through.

The striking prisoners have said they would drink only water and salt until their demands are met.

Amani Sarahna of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, an advocacy group for Palestinians jailed by Israel, said prison authorities had conducted extensive searches in hunger strikers’ cells, taking away salt from those refusing to eat.

“All the prisoners’ belongings were confiscated except their towels and their shoes,” Sarahna said.

The start of the strike last week coincided with the release of Khader Adnan, a prisoner who refused food for 66 days before agreeing to a deal under which he was freed. Adnan is a member of Islamic Jihad which has vowed to destroy Israel.

Organizers have called for rallies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in the coming days in support of the 4,800 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Former Palestinian hunger striker released from Israeli jail


Khader Adnan, a Palestinian who went on a 63-day hunger strike to protest his administrative detention, was released from an Israeli jail to his home in the West Bank.

Hundreds of Palestinian supporters came out late Tuesday night to greet Adnan, who first stopped to meet with the families of other Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strikes, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.

“The happiness I saw on my people’s faces made me forget all the suffering I experienced when I was on hunger strike,” Adnan told Ma’an.

Adnan, a member of Islamic Jihad, agreed in February to end his hunger strike in return for an Israeli agreement not to extend his administrative detention. A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months.

He was arrested on Dec. 17 on the basis of “secret evidence” that he is a threat to regional security.

His hunger strike reportedly was the longest ever undertaken by a Palestinian prisoner in Israel. It sparked several other hunger strikes, including that of Hana Shalabi, a member of Islamic Jihad, who agreed on March 29 to end her 43-day hunger strike and be freed in exchange for spending the next three years in Gaza.

Palestinian prisoners launch hunger strike


At least 1,200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have launched an open-ended hunger strike.

The hunger strikes began Tuesday, on what the Palestinians observe as Prisoners’ Day, which honors prisoners being held in Israeli jails.

Another 2,300 prisoners declared that they would not eat on Tuesday in solidarity with the hunger strikers and returned their meals to prison guards. At least eight foreign activists who arrived in Israel on Sunday as part of a protest “fly-in” and remain in an Israeli prison also refused food, Ynet reported.

The mass hunger strike is calling for an end to solitary confinement and isolation; for allowing families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit their loved ones; and allowing prisoners to have newspapers, learning materials and specific television channels. It is also protesting administrative detention. A security prisoner in Israel can be held in administrative detention without charges for up to four months; it can be renewed.

Four Palestinian prisoners have been on extended hunger strikes and are in prison hospitals.

Two other high-profile hunger strikers were released after cutting deals with Israeli authorities.

Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike in mid-February when Israeli prosecutors agreed that his administrative detention would not be renewed. Hana Shalabi, a member of Islamic Jihad, agreed March 29 to end her 43-day hunger strike and be freed in exchange for spending the next three years in Gaza.

Palestinians in Israeli jails set to launch hunger strike


More than 1,600 Palestinians in Israeli jails reportedly are set to launch a hunger strike on what is called Palestinian Prisoners Day.

The coordinated hunger strike is scheduled to begin Tuesday, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported. But it is unclear whether Fatah and Hamas prisoners will begin the hunger strike together, Ma’an reported, citing Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority prisoners’ affairs minister. Fatah officials believe that starting the hunger strike on Prisoners Day will harm negotiations with Israeli authorities, according to Ma’an.

The mass hunger strike is calling for an end to solitary confinement and isolation; to allow families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit their loved ones; and to allow prisoners to have newspapers, learning materials and specific television channels.

The news agency reported, citing the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, that four Palestinian prisoners now on hunger strikes are in an Israeli prison hospital and two others are in solitary confinement. The six are being held in administrative detention. A prisoner can be held in administrative detention without charges for up to four months; it can be renewed.

Two high-profile hunger strikers were released after cutting deals with Israeli authorities.

Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike in mid-February when Israeli prosecutors agreed that his administrative detention would not be renewed. Hana Shalabi, a member of Islamic Jihad, agreed March 29 to end her 43-day hunger strike and be freed in exchange for spending the next three years in Gaza.

Palestinian woman deported to Gaza after ending hunger strike


A Palestinian woman jailed in Israel who ended a 43-day hunger strike was deported to the Gaza Strip.

Hana Shalabi, a member of Islamic Jihad, agreed March 29 to end her hunger strike and be freed in exchange for spending the next three years in Gaza.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency said Shalabi, 30, would not be allowed to see her parents and other relatives before crossing over to Gaza through the Erez crossing. Shalabi is from Jenin in the West Bank.

Shalabi launched the hunger strike to protest being held under administrative detention without charges. Human rights groups expressed concern for Shalabi’s life toward the end of her strike.

A prisoner can be held in administrative detention without charges for up to four months; it can also be renewed.

Shalabi was the third Palestinian prisoner exchanged for captive soldier Gilad Shalit to be re-arrested. She served 25 months in administrative detention prior to being set free.

Shalabi was the second Palestinian to reach a deal with Israeli authorities to end a hunger strike. Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike in mid-February when Israeli prosecutors agreed that his administrative detention would not be renewed.

At least 23 other Palestinian political prisoners are on hunger strikes to protest the use of administrative detention as an indefinite form of detention without charge or trial, according to Physicians for Human Rights.

Palestinian hunger striker in ‘mortal danger’


A Palestinian woman jailed in Israel who has been on a hunger strike for more than a month is in “immediate mortal danger,” a human rights group said.

Hana Shalbi, a member of Islamic Jihad, is in the 35th day of a hunger strike to protest being held under administrative detention without charges being brought against her.

Shalbi, 30, reportedly was taken to a hospital in Kfar Saba Monday and then returned to prison. She reported to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel that she was handled roughly during the transfers, including being “dragged across the floor.” She has only taken water since her arrest on Feb. 16.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is “gravely concerned for the life of Hana Shalabi and call for her immediate transfer to a hospital, with adequate care that is uninterrupted by frequent and unnecessary transfers.”

At least 23 other Palestinian political prisoners are on hunger strikes to protest the use of administrative detention as an indefinite form of detention without charge or trial, according to Physicians for Human Rights.

Shalbi’s hunger strike follows that of another Islamic Jihad member, Khader Adnan, who was protesting his being held in an Israeli prison without charges. Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike in mid-February when Israeli prosecutors agreed that his administrative detention would not be renewed.

Adnan was released from a hospital on Tuesday, where he had been for treatment ever since he ended his hunger strike.

A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months; it can also be renewed.

Shalbi is the third Palestinian prisoner exchanged for captive soldier Gilad Shalit to be re-arrested. Shalbi served 25 months in administrative detention prior to being set free.

Palestinian to continue hunger strike despite detention cut


A Palestinian woman on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison said she will continue to fast despite having her detention cut.

Hana Shalabi, 30, a member of Islamic Jihad, reportedly began a hunger strike 18 days ago after being put under administrative detention.

An Israeli military court on Monday reduced Shalabi’s six-month detention to four months, Reuters reported, in an attempt to convince her to end her hunger strike. 

Shalabi previously had been held for 25 months in administrative detention. She was released as part of a prisoner exchange in October for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She is the third Palestinian prisoner released in the exchange to be arrested again.

Shalabi says she was subjected to a body search by a male Israeli soldier after her arrest and was assaulted when she resisted.

Shalabi’s lawyer, Fadi Qawasmi, said his client told him that she would continue her hunger strike in order to achieve her demands to end all administrative detentions, the Palestinian Ma’an news service reported.

Her hunger strike follows that of another Islamic Jihad member, Khader Adnan, who was protesting his being held in an Israeli prison without charges. Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike earlier this month when Israeli prosecutors agreed that his administrative detention would not be renewed.

A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months, but it can be renewed.

Palestinian woman on hunger strike in prison


A Palestinian woman, released by Israel in a prisoner swap last year but re-arrested earlier this month and held without charge, is on a hunger strike to protest at her treatment, officials said on Monday.

Hana Shalabi started refusing to eat 12 days ago, her lawyer and a Palestinian prisoner’s organization said, becoming the second Palestinian detainee to go on a hunger strike in quick succession.

Israel struck a deal last week with Khader Adnan, who is a member of the militant Islamic Jihad movement, persuading him to end his 66-day fast after assuring him that he would be released in April from his detention without trial.

Shalabi, 30, is also a member of Islamic Jihad, which is committed to Israel’s destruction.

She was seized from her home in the West Bank on Feb. 16 and has complained of repeated mistreatment. Her lawyer said she has been put in solitary confinement as punishment for the hunger strike.

“She told me that she was beaten in front of her family at the time of her arrest, in prison during interrogation and again when she refused to succumb to a full body search by male soldiers,” lawyer Fawaz Shaloudi told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s Prisons Service, disputing the allegations, said Shalabi had been on hunger strike for only eight days.

“The isolation was part of routine procedure to deal with hunger strikers and she was put in a cell on her own, but it was not solitary confinement punishment. Today she was returned to a cell with another inmate,” spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said.

“There has been no mistreatment in prison. She was not searched by a male prison guard and she is getting visits. Indeed, she has not complained of mistreatment while in the custody of the Prisons Service,” Weizman added.

Shalabi was held by Israel for 25 months under so-called administrative detention before she was released last October as part of a prisoner swap in which some 1,000 Palestinians were freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held incommunicado by militants in Gaza for five years.

Israeli human rights groups have condemned detention without trial. Israeli authorities say the procedure is used in some security-related cases and helps to protect confidential sources from exposure in court.

Qaddoura Fares, the chairman of the main Palestinian prisoner’s organization, said 310 Palestinians are in administrative detention. He said that since the Shalit deal, 15 Palestinians have been rearrested and six are still in jail.

Reporting By Jihan Abdalla and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Palestinian prisoner ends 66-day hunger strike


A Palestinian held in an Israeli jail without charge agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike.

Khader Adnan, 33, ended the hunger strike Tuesday after the State Prosecutor’s Office agreed that it would not renew his administrative detention, which is set to end on April 17.

Adnan has been held in administrative detention since his arrest on Dec. 17, 2010, on the basis of “secret evidence” that he is a threat to regional security. A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months.

He reportedly is a member of Islamic Jihad.

The deal was announced early Tuesday afternoon before Adnan’s scheduled appeal before Israel’s Supreme Court. The hearing was cancelled at the last minute.

Doctors had warned Israeli officials that Adnan could die at any moment, according to reports. He was taking liquid infusions of salts, glucose and minerals. It reportedly was the longest hunger strike ever undertaken by a Palestinian prisoner in Israel.

Adnan was set to be transferred to a hospital in the West Bank to recover from the hunger strike.

Thousands rally in Gaza, West Bank for hunger striker


Several thousand Palestinians rallied in Gaza and the West Bank Friday in support of jailed Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan, who is on the 62nd day of a hunger strike to protest against his detention by Israel.

“We are all Khader Adnan,” chanted crowds gathered in the Gaza Strip, with activists from the main political parties joining forces in a rare display of Palestinian unity.

Adnan, 33, has been refusing to eat since mid-December following his arrest in the occupied West Bank. He is being held under so-called “administrative detention,” which means Israel can detain him indefinitely without trial or charge.

The Islamic Jihad group, which advocates the destruction of the state of Israel, has said it will escalate violence if Adnan dies, following reports that his health was deteriorating.

“We will pursue our Jihad and resistance. We will sail in the sea of blood and martyrdom until we land on the shore of pride and dignity,” top Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam said during a Friday sermon at Gaza’s oldest al-Omari mosque.

The Physicians for Human Rights group in Israel (PHR), which has been monitoring Adnan’s condition in an Israeli hospital, said Friday he was “in immediate danger of death,” adding that he had suffered “significant muscular atrophy.”

The Israeli army has said in a statement that Adnan was arrested “for activities that threaten regional security.” It has not given further details.

Adnan owns a bakery and a fruit and vegetable shop in his West Bank village, Arabeh. He has served as a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad, which describes him as a local leader.

MORE HUNGER STRIKERS

At least 5,000 people took to the streets of Gaza, waving a mix of black Jihad flags, the green flags of Islamist group Hamas and the yellow flags of the secular Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Witnesses said hundreds had also demonstrated in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

Palestinian officials said many other prisoners in Israeli jails had started hunger strikes to support Adnan, including Hassan Salama, a senior armed commander of Hamas who is serving life terms for masterminding suicide bombings against Israelis.

Palestinian prisoners have regularly staged hunger strikes in the past to try to gain better conditions or to denounce the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories.

However, such protests usually end quickly and officials said no-one had persisted for as long as Adnan, who is married with two children and whose wife is expecting a third infant.

The Islamic Jihad’s Azzam accused Arab states and Western powers of ignoring Adnan’s protest. “Shame on the nations of hundreds of millions (of Muslims) for the fact that Khader Adnan is still in prison,” he said in his Friday sermon.

Hamas, which governs Gaza, said it was pushing the Arab League and Egypt to press for the release of Adnan.

“The Palestinian people, with all its components and its factions, will never abandon the hero prisoners, especially those who lead this hunger strike battle,” said Hamas’s top authority in the Mediterranean territory, Ismail Haniyeh.

The PHR rights group said Adnan could die even if he broke his fast. “There is a risk to his health even if he starts eating now because his system has got used to not having any food at all,” a spokesman said.

Additional reporting by Jihan Abdallah in Ramallah; editing by Crispian Balmer

Carter Center calls on Israel to release or charge hunger striker


The Carter Center called on the Israeli government to either charge or release a Palestinian prisoner on a hunger strike.

The center founded by former President Jimmy Carter asked Israel on Thursday to release Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who was arrested in December on the basis of “secret evidence.”

Adnan has been held in administrative detention without charge and has undertaken a hunger strike since being incarcerated.

The Carter Center previously spoke out about Israel’s administrative detention policies in holding three members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, including Dr. Aziz Dweik, the Speaker of the PLC.

“The detention of Speaker Dweik and other Palestinian legislators appears to be an attempt to hamstring the PLC in order to prevent Palestinian reconciliation and a prospective election later this year,” former President Carter said in a Jan. 24 press statement.  “The continued use of ‘administrative detention’ also is of great concern.”

Palestinian on hunger strike in Israeli prison denied release


A Palestinian man in the 59th day of a hunger strike was denied release from an Israeli prison, where he is being held without charge.

Khader Adnan has been held in an Israeli prison since his arrest by Israeli soldiers on Dec. 17. He can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for four months. The administrative detention went into effect on Jan. 8.

A military court judge on Monday denied Adnan’s appeal to be released or have his detention reduced. Adnan is a member of Islamic Jihad.

Adnan is on a hunger strike, only drinking water, to protest his detention without charge, as well as humiliating treatment in prison, according to reports.

He reportedly is too weak to stand up on his own, though he is shackled to a hospital bed.

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