Palestinians are marking Prisoner’s Day with acts of defiance across the West Bank and Gaza.
The annual event is held to call attention to the plight of inmates held in Israeli jails, who currently number 4,800.
Three thousand of them are said to be hunger striking to commemorate the day as concern grows over the health of Samer Issawi, a detainee who has refused food for almost nine months. Doctors fear for his life.
Issawi was arrested for breaking the conditions of his release for a previous charge. His family last saw him in July 2012.
Samer’s mother, Layla Issawi, expressed her anguish: “ I wish that all prisoners would be released, especially my son Samer, who may die at any moment… There’s no law in the world that prevents a mother or family visiting their prisoner son who has been on hunger strike for 271 days, and is in a dangerous condition.”
Issawi was sentenced to 26 years for his part in an attack on Israeli soldiers in 2002. He was released in 2011 along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians in return for an Israeli soldier held by Hamas in Gaza. He was re-arrested last year as he entered the West Bank.
Israel has offered to deport him to another UN member state, but he has refused. Two Palestinians have already died in Israeli custody this year sparking violent protests. Israel and the international community are keen to avoid another prisoner death which could reignite violence in the region.