Nearly 70 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for five weeks to protest Israel’s detentions without charge or trial have been hospitalized, the Israel Prison Service announced Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
It was not immediately clear where these hospitals are located.
Issa Qaraqe, minister of prisoner affairs for the Palestinian Authority, reportedly told Voice of Palestine radio that the prisoners’ health is deteriorating rapidly. “Most are vomiting blood and fainting,” he stated. “They cannot walk, they are in terrible pain. We are afraid some will die if the situation continues.”
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are participating in a hunger strike against Israel’s widespread practice of “administrative detention,” in which the nation holds people without charge or trial on “evidence” that is kept secret from the prisoner and lawyers. These detentions can be renewed indefinitely, and some Palestinians have languished in prison for over a decade under this status.
Critics charge that administrative detentions are part of a broad strategy to undercut Palestinian movements and further tear their social fabric. “Administrative detention is usually used against Palestinians who are protesting against Israeli apartheid,” Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams. “Israel rounds up activists, holds them for several months, and can renew the detention and keep them indefinitely.”
The hunger strike began April 24 when nearly 100 prisoners, including many held under administrative detention, began withholding food at several prisons. According to a letter to the UN, penned by 18 Palestinian human rights organizations, these hunger strikers have faced retaliation for their protest, including: isolation, transfer, raids, denial of visits, and restriction of legal counsel. Despite these punishments, the hunger strikes have spread to other prisons.
The protest follows a 2012 mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, which forced the Israeli government to agree to restrict its use of administrative detention.
Yet, according to Addameer, as of April 2014, 5,265 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, 186 of them under administrative detention.