General Strike for Prisoners; 36 People Injured in Clashes
JERUSALEM (AP) _ A one-day protest strike shut down commercial activity in Jerusalem’s Arab sector on Wednesday, and 36 people including Palestinian students and an Israeli soldier were reportedly injured in West Bank clashes.
The job action was mounted in support of thousands of Palestinian prisoners who are on a hunger strike to protest security measures and conditions in Israeli jails.
The Palestine Press Service said 13 Palestinian high school students were injured after being clubbed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Nablus, but the report could not be immediately confirmed.
An Israeli army spokesman said that in a separate incident in Nablus, a soldier was slightly injured in the head by a thrown rock.
At a boys’ school at Askar refugee camp near Nablus, 21 students were injured in fights between two groups of youths, and in Jenin a masked man stabbed and wounded a Palestinian student, the army spokesman said.
Further details on the violence were not immediately available.
The hunger strike began March 25 at a prison in Hebron. It has spread to four other West Bank prisons, encompassing about 4,200 inmates, Israeli Arab legislator Tewfik Toubi said Wednesday after visiting one of the prisons the day before.
But Israeli Prison Services spokesman Shimon Malka said only 1,200 prisoners were still participating on Wednesday.
″We expect it will end in a few days,″ he said. He added that 18 inmates had been taken to a clinic for medical treatment.
International Red Cross spokesman Patrick Zahnd, interviewed in Geneva, called the strike ″very serious,″ and indicated the organization was closely monitoring the jails.
Toubi said striking prisoners were drinking water and eating salt.
The prisoners, in a statement released Wednesday, listed 21 complaints.
They said among other things that authorities seal cell windows shut, depriving them of ventilation. Prisoners also complained that officials have fired tear gas on them inside cells.
Toubi said six prisoners he met at high-security Jneid Prison near Nablus complained they were locked in ″smelly, unventilated cells for 22 hours daily,″ and that overall conditions had worsened in the last five months.
Malka denied the allegations but said the prison authorities ″are investigating and considering″ some of the prisoners’ demands.
″We are ready to consider human needs,″ he said, ″but not to compromise on security measures like body searches.″
The Palestine Press Service and an independent Western source said one inmate, Tareq Hamuri, 24, committed suicide Monday but his death apparently was not linked to the hunger strike.
In Jerusalem, where most shops were closed in solidarity with the strike, 300 mothers, children and prisoners’ friends held a sit-in in the yard of an International Red Cross office, awaiting word of striking relatives.
Seven former prisoners said they had stopped eating in support of friends in jail.
A 70-year-old woman, Farha Rabah Barghouti, was waiting for news about her son, Na’el, 28, in a prison near Nablus.
″I’m worried about him and all our other brothers and sons who are not eating,″ she said.