A Fatah official warned on Tuesday of an increase in Palestinian violence if four hunger-striking prisoners held in administrative detention in Israel are not immediately released.
Eight-hundred Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in the Rimon, Eshel and Nafkha prisons began a hunger strike on Tuesday in solidarity with Samer Issawi, who has been refusing food for 200 days, and three other hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli detention. In response to the prisoners’ hunger strike, violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces continued across the West Bank on Tuesday.
Kadoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a nongovernmental organization dealing with prisoners’ rights, told The Times of Israel that, while Palestinians are not interested in launching a third intifada over the administrative detention of Palestinians in Israeli jails, emotions may flare out of control.
“Sometimes the fire starts out small and expands to a large inferno,” he said. “If one of the prisoners dies, spirits will flare, Israeli soldiers will shoot at demonstrators, and things will get out of hand.”
Fares said that Palestinians are protesting two separate matters. The first is the repeat arrest of Issawi and Ayman Sharawna, who were released as part of the Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011 but were subsequently taken back into custody by Israel. The second is the administrative arrest of Tareq Qaadan and Jafar Azzidine.
He said that Israel’s military prosecution agreed to release Qaadan and Azzidine following a three-month extension of their imprisonment, a proposal rejected by the Palestinian side.
“This is ridiculous. If they are dangerous, will they suddenly stop being so on May 21?” asked Fares.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian cabinet called on the World Health Organization to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, fulfilling a decision taken by the UN body last year. The government claimed that Israel led a “policy of medical negligence” toward Palestinian prisoners.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, on a diplomatic visit to Yemen, praised the steadfastness of Issawi, who has become an icon of Palestinian prisoners, saying he was “an honorable example of our people’s struggle for freedom and independence.” Abbas said that he had placed the prisoner issue at the top of his agenda, and was pressuring Israel through the EU and UN for their release.
The Ma’an news agency reported on Tuesday that Egyptian intelligence has also become involved in the issue, since Egypt was officially declared guarantor for the sound implementation of the Shalit deal.
Israel has not yet responded to the Egyptian pressure or to a meeting between chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Yitzhak Molcho, the special envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hamas, too, claimed involvement in indirect talks with Israel over the prisoners. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas official in Gaza, told the Quds News Network that indirect talks were underway with Israel in Egypt to finalize all details of the Gaza ceasefire and solve the issue of prisoners on hunger strike.
Meanwhile, solidarity demonstrations took place both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. At Hebron University, women carried signs reading “We are all prisoners until every prisoner gets his right.” And in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis, protesters stood across from the Red Cross building, carrying portraits of Fatah prisoners with the words “We will never forget you.”
In Nablus, demonstrators marched towards the Hawara checkpoint; and students from Ramallah’s Bir Zeit University clashed with Israeli soldiers outside Ofer prison, north of Jerusalem. Forty-one local radio stations united their broadcasts to report on developments from the ground.