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West Bank holds solidarity strike for Palestinian prisoners

Businesses closed across the West Bank on Thursday [AFP]

Date of publication: 27 April, 2017

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Palestinians held a general strike on Thursday in solidarity with hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike, with some officials calling it the largest in years
Thousands of people across the West Bank went on a general strike on Thursday in support of a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

The one-day strike saw schools, universities, shops and all public sector offices, except medical facilities, close for the day as various protests were held in individual towns.

The strike was organised by the National Committee to Support the Hunger Strike, receiving backing from a number of political parties, in support of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club NGO.

"We have not seen such a strike for years," Kadoura Fares, president of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, told The New Arab.

"The decision to strike came from territories that the Fatah movement controls – gaining wider support and great commitment from all sectors of the Palestinian people.

Some protesters organised a 'go-slow protest' by driving slowly through the streets, honking their horns and waving Palestinian flags.

Read also: #SaltWaterChallenge: Palestinians launch media campaign to support hunger strikers

Young men wearing masks and military fatigues with Fatah headbands stood on street corners, reportedly to keep the peace while some police officers went on strike.

"This general strike is unprecedented in [recent] years," said Khalil Rizeq of the Union of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce.

"All Palestinian industries, such as transport, bakeries, stores, all of the private sector and commercial institutions are participating."

The protest is in support of around 1,500 prisoners, mostly belonging to secular groups, including the PLO and Fatah, who have refused to eat any food since April 17.

The hunger strikers are currently only ingesting water and salt and are protesting for better living conditions, including better medical care and access to telephones.

The hunger strikers are currently only ingesting water and salt and are protesting for better living conditions, including better medical care and access to telephones

There are an additional 2,000 prisoners, who belong to the Hamas group, considering to join the hunger strike.

The protest has led to a new social media campaign, called #saltwaterchallenge or #تحدي_مي_وملح, where supporters drink a glass of saltwater on camera in support of the prisoners' protest.

The hunger strike is being led by the Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences for his role in the second Palestinian intifada.

Barghouti started to develop medical problems a few days ago, but is refusing medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at crowds of protesters while carrying out a large number of dawn raids on Thursday morning, arresting tens of young men.

Naseer Radwan Abu Thabet, a journalism student at An-Najah University, was arrested at dawn in Beit Dajan, a village located east of Nablus. Abu Thabet had been arrested and released in a similar manner only two months previous.

Israeli forces also captured Hamas leader, Fazea Sawafteh, as well as Samir Abu Muhsin, Osama Sawafteh and Lut Bisharat.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Around 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows imprisonment without charge.

Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, however this protest is reportedly the largest protest in recent times.

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