By staff & agencies

Tenth return protests: from Gaza to Haifa

June 2, 2018 - 11:40
Over 400 Palestinian prisoners to go on hunger strike in Israeli jails

Tensions have been running high along the Gaza fence since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the United States embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to the occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem).

At least 65 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 others wounded as the Israeli forces used snipers, airstrikes, tank fire and tear gas to target the Gaza demonstrators on May 14.

Overall, at least 122 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the unrest that flared up at the end of March.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), more than 13,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including more than 3,600 by live ammunition - some multiple times - and there have been nearly 5,400 limb injuries.

Israel conducts regular air raids on Gaza under the pretext of hitting Hamas targets. The Gaza Strip has also been under an inhumane Israeli siege since 2007.  

Tel Aviv has waged three wars on the coastal enclave since 2008, including the 2014 offensive, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead.

Palestinian prisoners to go on hunger strike in Israeli jails

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners currently being held in Israeli jails and detention facilities are expected to launch a hunger strike next week in protest against their detention without charge or trial.

Head of the Palestinian Authority’s Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said in a statement that some 500 Palestinian inmates have been boycotting Israeli courts since February, and demanding an end to Israel's policy of administrative detention – a controversial form of imprisonment that allows Israeli authorities to detain individuals indefinitely without charge, trial or access to counsel.

Qaraqe added that the detainees would be “escalating measures” in early June, and would be launching a widespread hunger strike.

The administrative detainees are calling upon people from all walks of the Palestinian nation to support their action, the Palestinian official said.

Qaraqe further noted that he expects Israeli authorities to “exercise unprecedented repression and isolate the inmates” during the strike.

More than 7,000 Palestinians are reportedly held at Israeli jails. Hundreds of the inmates have apparently been incarcerated under the practice of administrative detention, a policy under which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.

Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to eleven years.

Palestinian inmates regularly stage hunger strikes in protest at the administrative detention policy and their harsh prison conditions in Israeli jails.

According to reports, at least 13 Palestinian lawmakers are currently imprisoned in Israeli detention facilities. Nine of them are being held without trial under administrative detention.

Gaza facing 'epic' crisis after recent Israeli carnage: Red Cross

Meantime, the besieged Gaza Strip is facing an “epic” crisis after Israeli forces killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians during recent protests, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned.   

Robert Mardini, who heads the ICRC's Near and Middle East operations, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday that the recent demonstrations and a violent Israeli response along the Gaza fence “have triggered a health crisis of unprecedented magnitude.”

Of the thousands wounded, some 1,350 people have complex injuries and will require between three and five surgeries each, Mardini said.

There is need for “a total of more than 4,000 surgeries, half of which will be carried out by ICRC teams,” he said. “I think such a caseload would overwhelm any health system in the world,” he added.  

Mardini said the whole Gaza is “a sinking ship.” He said while health workers are focused squarely on “saving lives and limbs,” other health services, for instance during child birth or to respond to a heart attack, are suffering.

“This epic health crisis took place against the backdrop of multiple, protracted, chronic crises affecting all sectors of life in Gaza.”

Mardini also stated that the ICRC would boost its assistance over a six-month period to reinforce medical facilities “which are clearly struggling to cope.”

He said that in the seven weeks since the demonstrations began, “we have exceeded the wounded caseload of the August 2014 war.”

The ICRC said on Thursday it was sending two surgical teams to Gaza and setting up a surgical unit in the enclave’s main hospital to treat heavy casualties from clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

The humanitarian organization has appealed to donors for a $5.3-million budget extension to fund a new 50-bed surgical unit in the Al-Shifa Hospital, medical supplies and other additional assistance.

Senior ICRC officials have cautioned that it was far from a permanent fix for Gaza which has sky-high unemployment, limited supplies of electricity and clean water, and a sanitation system unable to cope.

UN envoy for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov recently warned the council that the flare-up of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in the Gaza Strip may result in war.

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