Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday to commemorate Prisoner’s Day. The day was being marked to coincide with the expected release of prisoner, Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad member who was assured by Israel that he would be released after going on a 66-day fast to protest his detention without charges.
Palestinians gathered in Arafat Square holding portraits of detained family members and the Palestinian flag in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Residents in the West Bank city of Bethlehem rallied in Manger Square, in front of the Church of the Nativity.
Adnan’s expected release comes after Israel guaranteed his release six-month “administrative detention” before his term was over.
Around 2,300 Palestinian prisoners have rejected their daily meal in support of Palestinian Prisoners Day and 1,200 have begun a hunger strike according to a written statement by the Israeli Prisons Authority.
The statement read “The Israeli Prisons Authority has coped with hunger strikes in the past and is prepared to cope with it now.”
Human rights attorney Lea Tsemel, who has represented many Palestinian prisoners, said the hunger strikes don’t surprise her.
“I see only deterioration in the punishments, in the attitudes, in the interrogations. The law has changed in order to impose more and more pressure on the Palestinian prisoners. Their rights were cut more and more, until today the situation is that prisoners from Gaza don’t have family visits at all. Any political prisoner is not allowed to call the family, to have any contact. Prisoners from the West Bank can hardly get visits with the Red Cross,” Tsemel said.
“A hunger strike is always the last resort of a person who is under pressure. It’s against oneself, it's torturing oneself. It's threatening perhaps in death to oneself. And yet it is the last possibility for the Palestinians to get together and shout out the voice of the prisoners,” she added.
Hanna Shalabi of the Islamic Jihad militant group, who was recently deported to Gaza following a 44-day hunger strike, said she fully supports her fellow hunger strikers.
“I regard their steadiness and I support them and all the Palestinians support them to end their suffering in the enemy’s prisons. I support their strike to achieve demands and to get their dignity back. And I tell them I hope they will be released soon,” Shalabi said as she gave interviews to local media.
Shalabi went on a hunger strike in protest of being held without trial. She was placed in “administrative detention” on Feb. 16.
An Israeli military official said she had agreed to three years in exile in Gaza in return for her release from prison.
Israel says it uses detention without trial to protect intelligence sources in any legal proceedings against a Palestinian suspect. The measure has drawn criticism from human rights groups and the European Union.