Palestinian Prisoners to Start Hunger Strike, Warn Failure to Meet Demands Will Lead to 'Escalation'
The inmates accuse Israel of making their conditions worse after the notorious escape of six prisoners from the Gilboa facility. They say they are humiliated, tossed around and denied basic rights.
After five days of intensive search, the manhunt for the six Palestinian prisoners who fled Israel's Gilboa prison earlier this week has yielded results.
Four of the six have already been caught and arrested. Two are still on the run but the belief is that they too will soon be caught.
Their seizure has already triggered mass protests in eleven locations across the West Bank. Last Friday, mobs of young people set tires ablaze. They attacked Israel's security forces with stones and Molotov cocktails
Earlier in the month, tensions were also felt in several prisons across Israel. Several days ago, a prisoner at the Gilboa prison attempted to pour boiling water on one of the wardens, who managed to move aside at the last minute and thus was not hurt
Other inmates at Ktziot prison have reportedly set seven cells on fire. Similar incidents have also been registered in other facilities across the country
In addition, the Palestinian prisoners' union has also announced it would open a general hunger strike on 17 September, and Qadoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner Club in the West Bank, says they will be doing so to "make Israel give them their rights back".
Shortly after the escape of the six fugitives, Israel initiated a number of measures in its prisons. All inmates that belonged to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, with which five of the six were affiliated, were shuffled to different cells. Some have even been sent to other facilities. The move was probably done to prevent more inmates from trying their luck.
Reports have also emerged that Israel had limited their canteen service and prevented them from watching TV or using mobile phones.
These measures have been denounced as the deterioration of the prisoners' conditions and they saw this as something they wanted to change.
"Israel denies us rights. It doesn't follow international law in dealing with prisoners. But our demands are so simple. They need to improve their conditions and enter all possible negotiations to set them free because they are our heroes, and they deserve to live peacefully with their families."
Addameer, an NGO that's fighting for the rights of the Palestinian prisoners, has spent a lot of time raising awareness about the inmates' conditions. It pointed out that many of them, especially those from the Gaza Strip, are denied family visits. Some are held in isolation and very often all are denied basic medical treatment
"They insult them and treat them as criminals. The conditions they are held in are often unbearable," said Fares.
Israel, on the other hand, has always been telling a different story and local media published multiple reports detailing the comfortable conditions of its so-called security prisoners, who serve time in prison on charges of terrorism.
According to those reports, inmates are entitled to use a gym that's equipped with advanced machinery. They are provided food catering services and subscriptions to local newspapers. They are entitled to an education, and get a salary from the Palestinian Authority that receives its funds from Israeli taxpayers
Escalation Round the Corner
But for Fares this is barely enough, and he warns that "another escalation is just around the corner," if their demands are not met.
"If Israel doesn't stop its violence against our prisoners, I believe that the next couple of days will witness an escalation. It will not be limited to the Gaza Strip only, and the West Bank will join in too. The ball is now in the court of Israel. It will all depend on their actions".
Signs of a possible escalation are already in the air. On Friday, Palestinians announced a day of rage against Israeli actions. In addition, militants of the Gaza Strip launched a rocket towards Israel's southern communities. It was intercepted by the Iron Dome Defence System. In response, the Jewish state attacked a number of military sites in the enclave
The country's Defence Minister Benny Gantz held a security assessment and said that Israel was ready for any developments but the question that begs to be answered is whether it really needs another wave of violence with Hamas