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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Palestinian hunger strikers near death

Created on 13 September 2012

Following separate visits this week, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel warned of increasingly dire conditions facing three Palestinian detainees on extended hunger strikes.

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On Wednesday Addameer reported that its

lawyer Fares Ziad visited Ramleh prison medical clinic yesterday, 11 September, but was again unable to meet with Samer Al-Barq as he was too weak to get out of bed. Mr. Fares did manage to meet with fellow hunger strikers Hassan Safadi and Ayman Sharawna, who informed him of Samer’s condition. According to Hassan and Ayman, Samer’s health has deteriorated so severely that he is now unable to walk and is permanently confined to bed.

 

The health of Hassan Safadi continues to worsen and even drinking water causes swelling in his hands and feet. His health has deteriorated so critically that on 10 September he was unable to drink any water at all. Other health conditions that Hassan is suffering from include: low immunity; contractions of the heart muscles; liver problems; kidney stones; chronic pain in his kidneys; low pulse; low blood pressure; chronic pain in his joints. On 9 September, Hassan was transferred to Assaf Harofeh hospital due to further deterioration in his health; in particular his inability to see clearly and continuous dizziness compounded by his other health problems. The subsequent results revealed a weakening of the nerves in his eyes and also that his is suffering from anemia and a shortage of protein. Despite the urgency of his condition, Hassan’s administrative detention order was confirmed for a reduced period of four months on 9 September, now due to expire on 29 October.

 

Ayman Sharawna is also in critical condition as his health continues to deteriorate. He has lost approximately 80 percent of the vision in his right eye and has lost all feeling in his left leg. He has been informed that his kidneys are not functioning properly and he also has extreme pain in his back, which sometimes prevents him from standing up. As reported previously, the prison authorities have attempted to pressure him by saying that they will only give him pain medication for his back if he ends his strike. For the last 10 days, Ayman has been vomiting blood as well as the water he drinks. Other problems Ayman is suffering from include low immunity; low heart beat; low fat content; low blood pressure; low sugar levels.

 

Ayman has requested that his left leg be examined but was told by prison doctors that this needs approval by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). He has also refused to be transferred to a civilian hospital as this usually involves being shackled by both arms and legs to the bed. Ayman is examined one day each week by prison doctors and is currently only able to drink one glass of water per day.

 

The pressure that all three hunger strikers have been subjected to by Israeli authorities continues to escalate. Israel not only deprives all three to a fair trial but also continues to severely mistreat them in the forms of physical brutality and psychological torture, as exemplified by the bargain to give Ayman Sharawna pain medication for his back only if he ends his hunger strike.

 

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Two young sisters pose after a rally in Unknown Solider's Square (al-Jundi) supporting the Karameh (Dignity) hunger strike. (Photo: Joe Catron)

 

After examining all three detainees, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel said on Tuesday,

 

it is our belief that a swift and resolute intervention is needed if we wish to try and save their lives. 

PHR Israel's volunteer doctor visiting them today, had determined that the all hunger strikers must be immediately transferred to a public hospital for comprehensive medical query of their severe conditions. Imminent life danger hovering over the three hunger-striker detainees - Sammer Al-Bark on his 112 day, Hassan Safadi on his 82 day and Ayman Sharawni on his 72 days.

 

PHR-Israel reiterates their grave concern for the life and health of three hunger strikers. The advanced physical damage recorded by the independent doctor in the visit today raises grave concern for maltreatment and neglect by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) doctors.

 

The independent doctor reports severe deterioration of their health condition, and advanced physical damage. the doctor reported that all three hunger strikers suffers from extreme weight loss, muscle weakness, significant decline in gross motor strength and loss of muscle tissue, severe dizziness; Daily bleeding in oral cavity; Unable to carry out simple daily activities like showering and other tasks; extreme low blood pressure; slow pulse; blurred vision; suffered from several incidents of dizziness and fainting that caused falling.

 

Of special alert is the fact that the IPS medical staff was extremely hostile in its conduct with PHR Israel's independent doctor, and did everything within its power to withhold medical information and intimidate the doctor. Also of deep concern is the fact that the hospital to which they were referred examined only those factors requested by the IPS and seems to overlooked complaints or other factors in the detainees' condition – let alone order their hospitalization rather than returning them to the prison. This conduct, PHR Israel fears, puts their health and lives in further risk.

 

Al Bark and Safadi - both administrative detainees – shall be immediately released, in accordance with the agreement according to which administrative detention orders shall not be extended.

 

Ayman Sharawni was released as part of the exchange deal that brought about the release of corporate Shalit. He was rearrested under and detained without charges or trial under a special military committee that has the authority to abolish a release and order a detention (military order number 11/186). PHR Israel believes that this is an administrative detention in a different guise and that Sharawni must be released.

 

PHR Israel asks that you shall do your utmost to bring about a life-saving resolution to the hunger strike.

 

Al-Barq, Safadi, and Sharawna continue their hunger strikes of 114, 84, and 74 days, respectively. A fourth prisoner, Samer Issawi, has refused food for 42 days to protest his Kafkaesque detention for allegedly leaving Jerusalem, while remaining inside the municipal boundaries normally claimed by Israel.

 

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A dancer performs a traditional dabke at a rally in Unknown Solider's Square (al-Jundi) supporting the Karameh (Dignity) hunger strike. (Photo: Joe Catron)

 

Meanwhile hundreds of detainees planned a one-day hunger strike Thursday, the 19th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, demanding that Israel release 123 prisoners held since the agreement and comply with the May 14 deal that ended the one-month Karameh (Dignity) mass hunger strike.

 

In statements by the Ministries of Detainees’ and Ex-detainees’ Affairs in Gaza and Ramallah, prisoners and family members called on the international community to support hunger strikers.

 

“We ask supporters around the world to undertake more activities to pressure Israel to stop its daily violations against our sons, brothers, and husbands, and to help them get back their rights that are violated daily by Israel,” Mona Abu Salah, a mother of two detainees, said from Gaza.

 

A prisoners statement from Hadarim jail called on President Abbas and the countries which supported Oslo to end their suffering,” Maan said of the Ramallah communiqué.

 

Joe Catron is a U.S. activist in Gaza, Palestine, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and prisoners’ movements. He blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets at @jncatron.