As Israel ups the pressure, Palestinians flock to support hunger-striking prisoners

Tawfeeq Abu Naim outside the ICRC, Gaza City

Tawfeeq Abu Naim outside the ICRC, Gaza City

by Julie Webb-Pullman

Head of the Palestinian Prisoners Association Tawfeeq Abu Naim today told hundreds of Palestinians in a solidarity tent outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza City that the Israeli Prison Service is trying to undermine the efforts of the hunger strikers by restricting and specifying the number of prisoners with whom they are prepared to negotiate.

The sole demand of the hunger-striking prisoners is an end to the policy of administrative detention and the immediate release of all administrative detainees, he said.

Other Israeli pressure tactics include the use of solitary confinement, cell raids, transfer to other prisons, and the with-holding of salt necessary to maintain electrolyte balance.

“We invite all people to take part in supporting our prisoners, to come to the solidarity tent, leaders and ordinary people, even if it is only for five minutes a day,” Abu Naim told the gathering.

Hana Shalabi on hunger strike again - this time in solidarity

Hana Shalabi on hunger strike again – this time in solidarity

Many are going further than a mere visit. Hana Shalabi, the Palestinian woman prisoner whose 43-day hunger strike in 2012 gained an unprecedented level of coverage in the western media and eventually achieved her release, albeit a three-year exile in Gaza, today joined the hunger strike.

“I will drink only water, no salt, as I did during my hunger strike in jail,” she told me.

The two women seated beside her have both been hunger-striking for five days now – one of them is another former prisoner who served four years in the 1970’s for helping resistance fighters, and the other the mother of a martyr.

Ex-prisoner (left) and martyr's mother (right) five days into their hunger strike

Ex-prisoner (left) and martyr’s mother (right) five days into their hunger strike

“We will continue the strike until the prisoners receive their rights,” they insisted.

Abu Naim noted that due to the increasing number of members of the public who are hunger-striking in solidarity with the prisoners, it may be necessary to relocate the solidarity tent to a more spacious place.

Families and members of the public pack the tent to support the hunger strikers in Israeli jails

Families and members of the public pack the tent to support the hunger strikers in Israeli jails

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