Israelis reject release of hunger striker Samer Issawi

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Palestinian children cover their mouths with stickers that read: "Yes to hunger, no to kneeling," during a rally in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in Gaza City on 19 February 2013. (Photo: Reuters - Suhaib Salem)

Published Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated 4:27pm: An Israeli court on Tuesday rejected a bail request for jailed Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi as hundreds protested for his release across the West Bank and Gaza.

Samer Issawi, now on day 211 without food, is to remain in prison until at least March 14 when the final verdict is to be announced.

Issawi's mother collapsed as he was escorted out of the court room, witnesses said.

Issawi’s health has rapidly deteriorated since he stopped drinking water on February 5, stoking fears that his death could be imminent.

The court on Monday had called for an emergency session to hear his case, presumably over concerns that his martyrdom could trigger a new Palestinian uprising.

Dozens had gathered outside the Jerusalem court holding up pictures of the prisoner awaiting the verdict in a case that has drawn international attention to Israel’s abhorrent prison policies.

Soldiers meanwhile fired tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of Palestinians rallying outside Israel’s Ofer Prison to demand Issawi’s release, activists reported on Twitter. At least 18 protesters were injured.

The hearing comes as hundreds of other Palestinians jailed in Israel began a one-day hunger strike Tuesday in solidarity with Issawi and three other long-term hunger strikers, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said.

The group announced on its website Tuesday that about 800 prisoners from three Israeli jails, and who represent four political factions, agreed to refuse food for a 24-hour period.

Issawi on Saturday released a letter condemning Israel’s “racist occupation,” and vowing to continue his hunger striker “until the end.”

The three other Palestinians on long-term hunger strikes include Ayman Sharawneh, Jaafar Ezzedine, and Tarek Qa'adan.

Thousands of their supporters have taken to the streets across the West Bank and Gaza in recent weeks to demand the release of thousands of prisoners being held without charge.

Over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners ended a mass hunger strike in May 2012 to protest their administrative detentions after reaching a deal with Israel.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have slammed the policy as a violation of international humanitarian law.



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