Detainees join March 15 movement hunger strike


March 29, 2011

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons announced Tuesday that they have joined the March 15 youth hunger strike to demand an end to the national division.

Thirty detainees in Israel’s Jalbou’a, Ramon, Nafha and Beersheba prisons said they would remain on hunger strike until Palestinian reconciliation was achieved, said Raed Al-Atrash, who reports on detainees’ affairs.

The prisoners launched the strike in solidarity with youth who took to the streets on March 15 to demand an end to the division between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas-run government in Gaza.

The March 15 movement, a loose coalition of youth groups, is demanding an end to the division through elections for the Palestinian National Council. They want all Palestinians to have a vote – including those inside Israel and in the diaspora.

Since mass protests on March 15, demonstrations have continued across the West Bank and Gaza, and protesters say they won’t stop until the division ends.

A group of protesters are on hunger strike. While demonstrations will continue until the division ends, the hunger strike will end when Fatah and Hamas stop inciting against each other in the media and release all political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza, protesters say.

Hamas and Fatah repeatedly accuse each other of political detentions, and say the arrests wreck unity efforts.

Al-Atrash said the prisoners were demanding that Hamas and Fatah respond to the people’s calls to end the division. The detainees said the leaders of both parties were responsible for the lives of those on hunger strike.

Hunger strikers in Ramallah praised the prisoners for joining the strike, and said it showed that all Palestinians wanted national unity.

“This is a sign that our demands are the demands of every Palestinian,” said Ma’ath Musleh.

“All respect to the prisoners who already live in bad circumstances yet they still react to the movements in the Palestinian street,” he added.

Musleh called on the West Bank and Gaza governments to stop underestimating the people, and to respect Palestinians’ wishes and meet the movement’s demands.

In the wake of the March 15 protests, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh invited President Mahmoud Abbas to the Gaza Strip for emergency talks.

On March 16, Abbas accepted the invitation, but said he would go to Gaza to make a unity deal, not to discuss one. A date has yet to be set for the president’s visit.

Abbas held landmark talks with Hamas leaders in the West Bank on Saturday, the president’s first meeting with the Islamist movement in over two years.

Both sides described the meeting as “positive,” without elaborating.

Hamas and Fatah split in 2007, when the Islamist movement took control of the Gaza Strip after bloody confrontations.

Since 2007, Gaza has been effectively cut off from the West Bank, which is under the control of Fatah, and repeated attempts at reconciliation have led nowhere.

Al-Atrash identified the detainees on hunger strike as:

Yasser Abu Turki, Kefah Al-Hattab, Malek Al-Jallad, Mohammed Abu Rabia, Fadi Khalil, Saad Juda, Nasser Oweis, Ibrahim Jaber, Hamza Abu Al-Leil, Muammar Al-Sabbah, Anas Al-Buraiki, Hamadoun Abu Suneineh, Ayub Az-Zarir, Sameh Abu Suneineh, Hatem Al-Gamal, Omar Khroat, Yasser Ash-Sharabati, Khaled Shabana, Nasser Abu Hamid, Issam Al-Faroukh, Atef Wareedat, Rafat Al-Adera, Ali Salhab, Ziad Zahran, Iyad Al-Qawasma, Ala Skafi, Yousef Skafi, Imad Abu Romouz, Taleb Amr, and Sharif Abu Hamid.

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