JERUSALEM (JTA) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for action to prevent harm to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli jails.
“The Secretary-General continues to follow with concern the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, in particular those held in what is known as administrative detention,” Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
“He stresses the importance of averting any further deterioration in their condition” and “reiterates that those detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees, or released without delay.”
The statement came as approximately 50 young Palestinian protesters blocked the entrance to the UN office in Ramallah on Wednesday morning with a sit-in demonstration. The protesters criticized the United Nations for not intervening to save the hunger-striking prisoners, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news service.
A group of young Palestinian activists called Palestinians for Dignity sent a letter to Ban on Monday calling on him to take a “firm and vocal position in opposition to Israel’s abuse and violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights.”
Some 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are on an open-ended hunger strike launched three 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. A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months; it can also be renewed.
Ten of the hunger strikers reportedly are under hospital supervision.
Two of the hunger strikers — Bilal Diab, 27, of Jenin, and Thaer Halahla, 33, of Hebron, who are both members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization — have been on a hunger strike for more than 70 days, placing their lives in danger.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have threatened consequences if any of the hunger strikers die.