Palestinians end hunger strike; migrants start one

Dozens of Palestinian prisoners announced an end to their two-month hunger strike, despite not winning any pledge by the Israeli government to end use of "administrative detention." Shawqi Eissa, the Palesitian minister of prisoners affairs, said June 25 that 63 prisoners agreed a deal and suspended their protest shortly after midnight. Under the terms of the deal, the hunger-strikers will be returned to their original prisons. Many had been moved around as punishment, with some kept in isolation. "This is not a huge victory, but a modest step forward," said Qadura Fares of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners' Society. Some detainees are continuing to refuse food, however. Ayman Tbeish, an "administrative detainee" who has been fasting for 118 days, did not suspend his strike. Some 5,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, with nearly 200 in administrative detention—a number expected to double in the coming days as recent arrests are processed. Israel pledged in 2012 to limit its use of the practice, as part of an agreement to end a previous hunger strike, but detainees charge the government has reneged on the deal. (Al Jazeera, June 25)

On June 30, some 1,000 undocumented African migrants began a hunger strike after Israeli police broke up a sit-in they were staging on the Egyptian border. The migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, marched to the border two days earlier and set up a camp to protest against their "inhuman and unlimited" detention at a facility Holot. The camp was violently evicted by security forces June 29, and the protesters taken to Saharonim prison in the Negev desert. A statement from the detainees read: "We have been taken to Saharonim prison. Some of us have injuries including to the face and limbs. In protest of this violence, and our ongoing imprisonment we have now started a hunger strike. We call on UNHCR to find an urgent solution for this situation and to protect our rights as people who have come to Israel to seek asylum and shelter."

Israel opened Holot detention camp, also in the Negev, as part of a crackdown on undocumented immigrants ast year. The facility is open by day but locked down at night. The protesters say Holot is akin to prison and decried what they called Israel's failure to process their asylum requests. The UN says there are some 53,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Israel. Some 36,000 come from Eritrea, where the regime is accused of widespread rights abuses. Another 14,000 are from conflict-torn Sudan. (AFP, June 30)

  1. Israeli court orders closure of Negev detention center

    Israel’s high court in Sept. 21 ordered closed the Holot a detention facility for migrants from Africa. The order must be carried out within three months, and new detentions are banned for a year. The decision annuls the government's Law for the Prevention of Infiltration which permitted the state to detain undocumented immigrants for up to one year in so-called "open" detention centers. (Jurist, DW, Sept. 22)

  2. Xenophobic march in Tel Aviv

    Hundreds of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood Oct. 3 to protest the High Court of Justice ruling to close the Holot detention center. Racist taunts abounded, and many carried black flags imitating that of ISIS but emblazed with the words "high court." Some protesters shouted slurs at migrants trying to offer them flowers as a gesture of peace. (France24, Arutz Sheva, JP, Times of Israel