Fatah, Hamas inmates ‘on hunger strike in Palestinian jails’


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf on Saturday told official PA media that party affiliates detained in the Gaza Strip were attempting to launch a hunger strike, but had been repressed.

Earlier this week, Gaza-based media said four Hamas detainees in a West Bank jail had started a hunger strike protesting their continued imprisonment beyond a court-ordered release date.

Both Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas which controls Gaza, accuse each other of detaining party members for political reasons since they split into rival governments in 2007. The release of detainees was a key tenet of the stalled May 2011 reconciliation deal between the parties.

Assaf told the Voice of Palestine that Fatah detainees in Gaza had tried to go on hunger strike several days ago to call for their release and better conditions.

Zaki Al-Sakani, a commander in the Fatah military wing, started the strike and was beaten and threatened to have his beard shaved off if he does not halt his actions, Assaf said.

The Fatah spokesman said jail conditions in Gaza for Fatah affiliates are dire. “In one room there are 12 prisoners staying in a cell of four meters intended for five inmates,” he added.

Assaf accused Hamas’s leaders of rejecting an agreement between the party chiefs to form an interim government last month, in order to preserve their control of Gaza.

Gaza-based Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar told reporters on Friday that his party supports the deal, but questioned its compliance with the requirement the new cabinet be temporary and non-partisan.

Last Sunday, Gaza’s Palestine Al-An news site said Suliman Abu Salha, Hamid al-Kawni, Shadi al-Kawni and Saed Abu Salha had begun an open hunger strike, after being kept in Nablus’s Juneid jail beyond their release date of September 2011.

Meanwhile, Hamas-affiliated news site Palestine Information Center reported that students from the Islamic bloc at Birzeit University would begin a hunger strike on Saturday, to protest repeated arrests and official summons by PA forces of their members.

The parties established rival administrations after ferocious infighting a year after Hamas won elections. They accuse each other of waging a violent campaign against affiliates in their respective territories.

The reconciliation deal sought to close this chapter, including the release of all political detainees, but has repeatedly stumbled as the factions disagree on how to implement its key tenets.

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