The prime minister of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip on Sunday urged the continuation of what he called “the prisoners’ intifada” — West Bank protests in support of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails.
Ismail Haniyeh, who spoke at an event honoring Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails, said that the purpose of the prisoners’ protest — which has seen widespread short hunger strikes, a handful of longer hunger strikes, and solidarity protests and demonstrations in recent weeks — is not designed to attract media attention. It is an honest and genuine struggle against Israel, he claimed.
Haniyeh added, “We will fight on all fronts and pay the necessary price to obtain their freedom.”
Palestinian protests in the West Bank flared up last week after a detainee in an Israeli prison, Arafat Jaradat, died from what Israeli officials said was cardiac arrest. The Palestinian Authority charged that Israel had tortured Jaradat to death. Previously, Palestinians had demonstrated, and clashed with IDF troops in several cases, in support of hunger-striking Palestinian security prisoners.
Demonstrators have principally been demanding the release of hunger-striking prisoners Samer Issawi, Ayman Sharawneh, Tareq Qaadan, and Jafar Azzidine.
Issawi and Sharawneh were previously jailed for long prison sentences for terrorist activities, but were released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange deal that secured the freedom of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Both men were since re-arrested for violating the terms of their release. Issawi — whose original convictions included attempted murder, for actions including opening fire on an Israel bus with an AK47 — was sentenced to eight months for the violation last month.
Recent weeks have seen a gradual upsurge in West Bank protests in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. Some Israeli experts believe the Palestinian Authority is seeking to foster a new popular uprising, like the First Intifada, which raged between 1987 and 1993. PA officials deny this, but senior Hamas officials have been outspoken of late in support of a third intifada.