Authors: Joshua Cohan
(TEL AVIV) – Six Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons are in danger of “imminent death,” a result that could trigger an outbreak of violence in the relatively peaceful occupied West Bank, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials and activists.
The six are part of a larger group that some activists estimate is now in the thousands after some 1,600 Palestinians joined a smaller hunger strike on April 17; more joined in solidarity after that. They are protesting a lack of rights in Israeli prisons, as well as “administrative detention,” which allows Israel to indefinitely renew six-month prison terms with no charges.
Friday was the 74th day of hunger striking for administrative detainees Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, currently in a prison clinic despite pleas from the Red Cross and Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights to transfer them to hospitals. The four other prisoners have been striking for over 40 days.
The six “are in imminent danger of dying,” the Red Cross said in a statement this week. “We urge the detaining authorities to transfer all six detainees without delay to a suitable hospital so that their condition can be continuously monitored and so that they can receive specialized medical and nursing care.”
An Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman told the Palestinian Ma’an news service Friday that the men would be transferred to a hospital “if it is necessary,” but that “as of now, I know that those who should be receiving extra care are receiving it.”
“We need immediate intervention now” from the international community, activist Raya Ziada told ABC News. Her brother is in an Israeli prison serving a 30 year sentence. If prisoners die, she said, “I think there will be an explosion of frustration for not intervening.”
Top Palestinian officials have warned of an outbreak of violence in the West Bank with President Mahmoud Abbas saying “it is very dangerous.”
A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wouldn’t discuss ongoing negotiations, but said they want to see an end to the hunger strikes as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of “riots all over the West Bank.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio