NBC News reports: Im Hisham, 65, spends her days sitting in her home in Kufur Raei village near here waiting for news about her 27-year-old son, Bilal Diab.
“I haven’t seen my son since the day Israeli Special Forces raided our home in the middle of the night and arrested him in front of my eyes,” she said of the incident on Aug. 16, 2011. “They gave him administrative detention for six months and when the six months ended they extended his detention for six more without charges or trial.”
Diab has since become one of the faces of a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
On Friday, Diab and Thaer Halahleh, another prisoner, entered their 74th day without food. They are demanding that the Israeli courts either charge them or set them free.
Israel’s practice of administrative detention allows the military to hold prisoners indefinitely based on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Israeli officials defend its use as a way to hold Palestinians who pose an immediate threat to the country’s security. Israel says they keep the evidence secret from lawyers and the accused because it would expose their intelligence-gathering networks if released.
Attention to Diab and Halahleh’s protest escalated on April 17 when an estimated 1,600 inmates launched their own mass hunger strike in solidarity, a move that led to Palestinians taking to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza almost daily to rally in support of the prisoners’ protest.
On Friday, a spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights, a humanitarian organization in Israel, said he fears for Diab and Halahleh’s lives.
Yael Marom complained that the last time the Israeli Prison Service allowed one of their doctors to visit Diab was on April 30. “The Israeli Prison Service is still denying regular access to [Diab] and the other hunger strikers by independent physicians and do not update us or the families, which is a blatant breach of medical ethics,” she said.
Israel says all prisoners receive adequate medical attention, including care civilian hospitals if required. “As of now, I know that those who should be receiving extra care are receiving it,” a spokeswoman, Sivan Weizman, told Reuters.
Mark Regev, the Israeli government’s spokesman, also claimed that Israel was providing adequate medical treatment for the prisoners and said they were free to choose their own doctors.
“But ultimately, this is not about medical facilities,” he said, “this is about hard-core activists, from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who through this protest are trying to instigate violence.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Israel that the death of one of the prisoners could result in chaos.
“If anybody dies today or tomorrow or after a week it would be a disaster and no one could control the situation,” Abbas said in an interview with Reuters at his office in Ramallah. “I told the Israelis and the Americans if they do not find a solution for this hunger strike immediately, they will be committing a crime.”