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  • Protesters attend a rally marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day in Gaza.

    Protesters attend a rally marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day in Gaza. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 April 2017

Palestinian solidarity groups are calling for wider support, both locally and internationally.

Nearly a week after a mass hunger strike was launched by over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, near-daily rallies continue to take place in support of the action to raise awareness about the plight of prisoners and press for an end to poor treatment.

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On Saturday night, more than 1,000 Palestinians clanged pots and pans through the streets of Ramallah, expressing solidarity with some 1,500 hunger strikers. Rallies were organized elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in Israel and abroad on Saturday as well.

At the march in Ramallah, Nassim Shahin told Ma’an news agency that she joined the action to support her brother Hussam Shahin, who is currently serving a 27-year prison sentence.

“The message we aim to deliver to the public is of the necessity of supporting these prisoners on hunger strike, who have sacrificed their freedom for the freedom of others,” Shahin said.

A representative of the Palestinian National Security Forces, Issam Bakir, has called for wider participation in West Bank marches.

“The higher the participation the better, so we can more effectively deliver the prisoners’ message to the world, and exert more pressure on the (Israeli) occupation government to meet their demands,” he declared, as reported by Ma’an.

The open-ended action seeks to pressure Israeli authorities to end arbitrary arrests and poor treatment in prison, as well as improve conditions for detainees, including better visitation rights. While Palestinian prisoners have launched individual hunger strikes in the past, this is the first one held on such a massive scale.

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“This mass hunger strike completely differs from all individual hunger strikes that were launched before,” Amin Shuman, head of the Higher Follow-up Commission for Prisoner Affairs, told Ma’an.

As the strike, launched last Monday on Palestinian Prisoners' Day, heads into its seventh day, there is fear that the prisoners will be force fed en masse. Israeli doctors have so far refused to force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, in line with accepted medical ethics that force-feeding is a form of torture. The Israeli Supreme Court, however, recently ruled that force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners is constitutional.

Last week, Israeli authorities began cracking down on the prisoners, forcibly moving many to different sections of Israeli jails, confiscating their clothes and personal belongings and preventing lawyers and family members from visiting them in jail.

Throughout the world, many groups have expressed their solidarity with the strikers. Most recently, the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of 120 member states that are not formally aligned with any major power bloc, expressed "solidarity with the peaceful and nonviolent act.” The group also denounced the "illegal and oppressive" ongoing detention campaign conducted against Palestinians through overnight Israeli military raids.

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