Pressure mounts on Israel over Palestinian prisoner fast

Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:10pm EST
 
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By Noah Browning

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails declared a one-day fast on Tuesday in solidarity with four inmates whose hunger strike has fuelled anti-Israel protests in the occupied West Bank.

Samer al-Issawi, one of the four Palestinians who have been on hunger strike, has been refusing food, intermittently, for more than 200 days. His lawyer says his health has deteriorated.

Gaunt and using a wheelchair, Issawi appeared on Tuesday before a Jerusalem civil court, which deferred releasing him for at least another month.

The prisoners' campaign for better conditions and against detention without trial has touched off violent protests over the past several weeks outside an Israeli military prison and in West Bank towns.

In the Gaza Strip, the Islamic Jihad group said a truce with Israel that ended eight days of fighting in November could unravel if any hunger striker died.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, which looks after the welfare of inmates and their families, said 800 prisoners were taking part in the daylong fast.

Issawi was among 1,027 jailed Palestinians freed by Israel in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was abducted on the Gaza border by Hamas, the Islamist militant group that now rules the enclave.

Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, who has also been on hunger strike, are among 14 Palestinians who have been re-arrested by Israel since being released in the Shalit trade.   Continued...

 
Palestinians hold placards depicting prisoner Samer al-Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for 209 days, during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah, calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman