Palestinians hold general strike in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners

Ahram Online , Monday 22 May 2017

Businesses, schools and banks closed their doors in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in a show of support for prisoners as US President Donald Trump arrived on two-day visit

A Palestinian demonstrator holds an anti-U.S. President Donald Trump poster during a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, near Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah May 22, 2017. (Reuters)

Palestinians in the occupied territories observed a general strike on Monday in solidarity with more than 1,300 Palestinians in Israeli prisons who have been on hunger strike for more than a month, according to news agencies.

In a statement earlier this week, the National Committee to Support the Palestinian Prisoners' Hunger Strike called for a number of protest actions during the week.

A partial strike on Sunday was followed by a full strike on Monday for all Palestinians in the occupied territories and the diaspora.

Monday's general strike came as the prisoners’ hunger strike entered its 36th day, coinciding with US President Donald Trump's visit to Israel on Monday.

Prisoners say they have been facing a harsh crackdown from Israeli prison authorities, while their medical conditions continued to decline.

Schools, banks, and public transport networks were shut down in cities of the occupied West Bank on Monday, although hospitals and emergency services remained open, Palestinian news agencies Wafa and Ma’an reported.

In the city of Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, all businesses and factories were closed, with the streets almost empty, while international diplomats and employees of international organizations who live in the outskirts of Ramallah were unable to reach their work, according to Ma’an.

The strike paralysed east Jerusalem as well as West Bank cities and suburbs, with shops closed and both public and private sector employees refusing to work, AFP reported.

The committee supporting the prisoners also called on people to join the prisoners' hunger strike for a 12-hour period on Monday, as well as a “rage” demonstration on Tuesday at noon.

Israeli security forces have previously used deadly force against popular rallies supporting the hunger strikers, most recently on Friday.

On 17 April, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike in response to a call by Marwan Barghouti — the prominent Palestinian political figure in the Fatah movement who has been jailed since 2002 — to protest poor prison conditions and the detention of thousands of Palestinians by Israeli authorities without trial since the 1980s.

Israeli forces moved Barghouti into isolation since the start of the strike.

President Trump's two-day visit to Israel will include separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as visits to holy sites.

On Monday in Jerusalem, Trump will pray at the Western Wall and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The US president said he would do whatever is necessary to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but has given little sign of how he could revive long-stalled negotiations.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed the east of the city in a move never recognised as legitimate by the international community.

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