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Faced by Prison Hunger Strikes, Lieberman to Follow in Thatcher’s Footsteps | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Tel Aviv, Ramallah- Hunger strikes in Israeli prisons have entered their third day with Israeli authorities going into penal measures exacted on protesters aiming to better their conditions.

Rather than negotiating Palestinian prisoners partaking in the strikes, prison management banned family visitation as well as did not allow for the detainees to meet with their legal representatives.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman went out and said that he is inclined towards taking the approach of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who publicly refused to accede to the demands of IRA hunger strikers in 1981, 10 of whom died.

Lieberman also called for the imprisonment of all Arab leaders in Israel who are in solidarity with the prisoners. He said he hoped to see the Arab legislators in the Knesset and Sheikh Raed Salah quickly join the hunger strikes in confinement.

Sheikh Salah is the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

Prisons service continued abusing inmates through arbitrary transfers and carrying out provocative and thorough searches in their rooms and possessions. Many privileges were also withdrawn in response to the strike.

Prison authorities also decided not to cooperate with prisoners, taking all measures –brutal if necessary- to prevent the strike from spreading to other jails.

More than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons launched the hunger strike on Monday, issuing a list of demands ranging from better medical services to access to telephones.

Palestinian prisoners entered the open hunger strike amid official and popular movements calling to support the strike in every possible way.

Led by Fatah central committee chief and popular leader Marwan Barghouti, “The Strike of Freedom and Dignity” is considered the biggest strike since 2012 when hundreds of prisoners participated in the effort to end solitary confinement.

At the time, major accomplishments were accredited to the strike which concluded in closing down solitary confinement and allowing families of detainees in Gaza the right to visitation.

Issa Qaraqe, head of prisoner affairs for the Palestinian Authority, said that around 1,300 prisoners were on hunger strike and the number could rise.

Around 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge. Qaraqe said the strike followed months of attempts at negotiations with Israeli authorities.

“If their demands are not met, more prisoners will join the strike,” he said.

“We have asked the international community and the UN to intervene immediately.”

He added that if prisoners die, “that could lead to a new Intifada.”