Gaza fighters launch retaliatory strikes over prisoner's death
Published Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Updated at 5:54 pm: Gaza fighters fired retaliatory strikes on Tuesday, hours after the death in custody of a Palestinian who was denied appropriate cancer treatment, witnesses and the Israeli military said.
Witnesses told AFP that militants in Gaza City had fired three mortar rounds, but the army said only one projectile had landed, without causing any casualties.
Meanwhile, over 40 Palestinians angered by the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, 64, were injured in clashes with Israeli police and prison guards. Riots are believed to have swept through Israeli prisons, while guards used live fire and tear gas against the protesters.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP that the faction was watching the developments with "the greatest concern" and that Israel would "regret its continuing crimes".
The last time Gaza fighters launched rocket fire was on March 21 during a visit by US President Barack Obama, when two rockets landed causing some damage but no injuries.
Abu Hamdiyeh's death threatened to raise tensions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, after reports surfaced that Israeli authorities had denied care to the prisoner. Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe likened Israel's handling of Abu Hamdiyeh's condition to a "slow death penalty."
Israeli authorities claim they informed Abu Hamdiyeh, 64, of his illness in February, however, prisoner's rights groups say the diagnosis occurred in August 2012. His lawyers and relatives report that Israeli doctors ran biopsies on him after he repeatedly complained of throat pains.
Palestinians have held several protests in recent weeks in support of more than 7,000 prisoners in Israeli jails, including over 300 children.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel had ignored long-standing pleas to free Abu Hamdiyeh, 64, sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for recruiting a bomber who planted explosives in a Jerusalem cafe. The bomb did not detonate.
"The Israeli government in its intransigence and arrogance refused to respond to Palestinian efforts to save the life of the prisoner," Abbas told members of his Fatah party in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Abu Hamdiyeh is the second Palestinian to die in Israeli custody this year. Arafat Jaradat, 30, died after an interrogation session in February. Palestinian officials said he had been tortured, an allegation Israel denied.
News of Abu Hamdiyeh's death touched off protests by Palestinian inmates in several Israeli prisons. At Ramon jail, in southern Israel, inmates threw objects at guards, who fired tear gas at them, the Prisons Service spokeswoman said.
Three prisoners and six guards were treated at the jail for tear gas inhalation, she said.
In Abu Hamdiyeh's West Bank home city of Hebron, masked stone-throwers confronted Israeli soldiers. No serious injuries were reported.
Israel holds 178 Palestinians in administrative detention, who have been jailed without trial as suspected militants for renewable three- to six-month terms based on classified evidence.
Hundreds of sick Palestinians are perishing in Israeli jails, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister and activists. The Palestinian Prisoners Club says some 25 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel are suffering from cancer.
Palestinians are expected to hold strikes across the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset have issued strongly worded condemnations of the Israeli government over Abu Hamdiyeh's deah.
Rights groups, as well as Qaraqe, described Abu Hamdiyeh's eight-hour trips to and from the hospital as hellish. He was transported in a corrugated metal van with no windows or seats.
The Palestinian Authority said they expected him to be released on Monday. Israel's refusal to free Abu Hamdiyeh had sparked protests in several Israeli prisons, where 17 detainees have begun a hunger strike.
In recent weeks, Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made intense efforts to secure Abu Hamdiyeh's release in the light of his deteriorating health.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP)