120 Palestinian political detainees in the Ramon prison in Israel, have decided to go on a hunger strike in solidarity with 23 others who have been striking since Tuesday. They have warned that more prisoners will have no choice but to join the strike if the Israeli prison service continues to ignore their demands or reneges on the agreement to implement some of the prisoners’ earlier demands, dating back to April.
The Israeli prison authorities had in April agreed to install public telephones in 44 of the prison wards which house security prisoners. They had also agreed to allow the prisoners to make regular, supervised phone calls to their families. The public phones were installed in both the Ketziot and Ramon prisons. Additionally, the Israeli prison service had also agreed to remove the signal jamming devices used to curb the use of smuggled mobile phones, which have been linked to serious health hazards, including cancer, inflicting several of the prisoners.
Prison authorities had installed the public payphones on the condition that the prisoners sign a commitment to stop the smuggling of cell phones into prisons, along with giving up any smuggled devices that they may already have in their possession. The public payphones would be disconnected if these two conditions were broken. While prisoners at Ketziot signed the commitment, those in Ramon did not, according to a report by Haaretz, last month.
According to the prison service, close to 300 smuggled cellphones were sneaked into the prisoners’ wards in the months prior to April. They were allegedly being used to plan and coordinate terror attacks, a charge without any basis or evidence.
On Tuesday, 23 prisoners decided to launch an open-ended hunger strike, five of them also refusing water. They are demanding the activation of the public telephones for a trial period of five days and the removal of the signal jamming devices. The Israeli prison service must also stop its heavy handed and violent raids into prisoners’ cells. The harsh and brutal policies and behavior towards Palestinian political detainees has been well documented.
The prisoners also demand the return of 23 other detainees who were earlier transferred from Ramon to the Nafha prison by the Israeli prison authorities. They have been placed under solitary confinement for planning to go on a hunger strike for the fulfillment of these very same demands.
The prisoners, in a meeting with the prison officials on Wednesday, gave the Israeli prison service a 24-hour period to respond to all their demands. However, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has said that there is hardly any likelihood of any of these being met in the coming hours or days, considering that the prison authorities have become increasingly violent in their suppression of the prisoners, attempting to force them into ending the hunger strike.
In April this year, close to 400 prisoners had gone on hunger strike to register similar demands. They had decided to end the strike after the Israeli prison service reached an agreement with them.