Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began an open-ended hunger strike on June 15. The Prisoners' Central Committee in Jneid Prison announced that the goal is the immediate release of the roughly 5400 Palestinian political prisoners who continue to be held. On June 25, prisoners in Ramallah and Nablus Prisons joined the hunger strike. The same day, all of the prisoners in Nablus jail announced that they will stop even the daily intake of salt water starting on July 1.
On June 25, prisoners on hunger strike in Daharriehe jail were attacked by guards with clubs and tear gas. Several prisoners were severely injured and hospitalised. In the latest communique from Shatta
Prison, detainees stated that soldiers there attacked prisoners after they undertook a one-day solidarity hunger strike on June 19.
The following article by KAREN FARRELL, abridged from the June 9 Jerusalem Times, explains some of the background of the struggle.
Prisoners have been preparing for this strike since September 1994. However, their previous attempts have been met repeatedly with promises of release, and they have postponed further action. Now tensions culminating in recent weeks have forced prisoners to take a strong stand against their continued imprisonment and the conditions they are forced to endure.
This is due in large part to a number of drastic changes, contributing to their already deplorable situation.
One change was introduced in October, when the Israeli General Security Service [GSS] announced that it would ease interrogation restrictions for a three-month period. When this trial period ended in January, it was instantly renewed, as it was again in April. These new provisions permit interrogators, in their own words, to "remove the gloves" when interrogating Palestinians. Previously, interrogation practices had already conformed with the international definition of torture.
Another revision was made in February, when Israel approved the issuance of administrative detention orders for a maximum one-year period, renewable. Prior to this announcement, these orders, permitting a person to be detained without any judicial proceedings, were issued for a maximum of six months, renewable.
Inside the prisons, the problem of isolation remains unresolved, despite Israeli promises to end this policy following a 1992 19-day-long hunger strike. In spite of these assurances, dozens of prisoners remain completely isolated in their cells, dining areas, exercise yards and bathrooms. They have absolutely no contact with other prisoners, which international law defines as cruel and unusual punishment. Many have remained in these conditions for months under GSS orders, which were not included in their sentencing.
One such case is former Marj Az-Zuhour deportee spokesman Abdul Aziz Al-Rantisi, who has been detained since returning from southern Lebanon in December 1993. Al-Rantisi has been held in the strictest isolation for over six months. His last trial convened on June 5 for the 17th time and was postponed until June 14.
Prisoners have also watched four of their comrades die for various detention-related reasons since the beginning of January. Two illustrative cases are Ma'zouz Dalal, 28, and Abdel-Samed Herizat, 28.
Dalal died on April 8 in a civilian hospital after five months of complete medical neglect by Israeli prison authorities. The Qalqilya native, who was held in administrative detention, began vomiting severely in November but received no treatment for his medical distress.
Herizat died on April 25 as a direct result of torture during his interrogation. The Scottish pathologist who observed his autopsy on behalf of his family noted that the Hebron native "died as a result of torture and nothing else".
Prisoners are also disheartened because no action seems to be taking place regarding their release. Instead, the Israeli army announced on June 1 that 3215 Palestinians have been arrested since October 1994. Many of these individuals are still awaiting trial or have been administratively detained. The majority of them were detained in collective arrests.