05/12/2012, 00.00
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Over 1600 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike: 6 in life threatening conditions

by Joshua Lapide
The prisoners call for the end of their detention; to be allowed to receive family visits, and the end of isolation. Many of them have spent years in prison, without trial or charges, for "security reasons". Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahla, 34, on their 74th day, are in desperate conditions. UN and WHO press Israel on humanitarian grounds. The Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt are working on a solution. Demonstrations in all occupied territories; risks of "explosive reaction".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - More than 1600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are implementing an indefinite hunger strike to protest against their indefinite detention without trial, without visits from family and in total isolation.

Six of them are in serious condition. According to observers, if any of them die, it would unleash a terrible "human explosion" of the Palestinians.

The two men behind this resistance are Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, now on their 74th day without food. Diab, 27, is in administrative detention (without trial and without charges) since 2011; Halahla, 34, has been held since June 2010. Both, for "security reasons" is not allowed to receive visits from family members not even next of kin.

The two men, exhausted and in a wheelchair, appeared in early May before the Israeli Supreme Court to appeal against their detention. Diab collapsed and was rushed to hospital; Halahla addressed the judges, calling his detention a "slow death". "I want to live my life with dignity - he added. I have a wife, a daughter I've never met. I am on hunger strike because they have no other way. "

The Court is taking its the time to decide.

Meanwhile, since mid-April, at least 1,600 Palestinian prisoners - all under the same conditions: indefinitely imprisoned without trial - have joined the hunger strike.

According to authorities, in Israeli prisons, there are only 300 Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention. For the Israeli government imprisonment, isolation, and the prohibition of family visits are a means of ensuring safety. But among the Israeli population there are groups who accuse the government of acting against international laws.

Days ago, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israeli Minister of Security, said that he may reduce the period of detention without trial.

The case has attracted international attention. The UN envoy for the Middle East, Robert Serry, said that the hunger strikes are "deeply disturbing" and called for "a solution to be found before it's too late."

Yesterday the World Health Organization, expressed "extreme concern" about the health of many prisoners on hunger strike and urged the Israeli authorities to give them immediate medical care, including hospital treatment.

The case of prisoners on hunger strike is inflaming the entire Palestinian population. At least 40% of males in the occupied territories have suffered a period of their life time in administrative detention. Every day in some cities there are Palestinian demonstrations criticizing both the Israeli government and Palestinian authorities of immobility. Yesterday in the village of Qana more than 12 thousand people gathered to criticize the preventative detention. Qarage Issa, Palestinian minister for prisoners, said today that the Palestinian Authority, Israeli and Egypt are working to find a solution to end the hunger strikes. This is to ensure an order of detention; family visits to prisoners in the Gaza Strip, the end of isolation. Any agreement should be verified and approved by a committee of the hunger strikers, made up of prisoners belonging to different Palestinian factions.

One former prisoner told al-Jazeera that the possible death of one of the strikers would lead to "an explosive reaction ... People will not sit idly by while their brothers die."

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