“Palestinians who are imprisoned in Israel have access to excellent medical care, and are allowed visits by International Committee of the Red Cross officials. Prisoners in Palestinian Authority prisons do not enjoy such conditions,” the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said this week via Twitter, rebuffing accusations that a deceased prisoner had been denied proper treatment for a terminal condition.
“Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority seeks to exploit the death of the prisoner, who died from cancer, and bring about an escalation; this is hypocritical on its part,” read the statement, which was posted in Arabic by the PMO’s spokesman to the Arab media, Ofir Gendelman.
Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, 64, had been sentenced to life in prison for his part in an unsuccessful 2002 plot to bomb a cafe in Jerusalem. He was convicted of attempted murder, membership in a terrorism organization and the illegal possession of weapons. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer in February, he was hospitalized in the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where he died on Tuesday morning. Israel Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said the prison service had petitioned to have Hamdiyeh released on medical grounds last week, but the appeal was still pending when he died. According to Army Radio, a Palestinian physician will be allowed to attend Abu Hamdiyeh’s autopsy on Wednesday.
News of Abu Hamdiyeh’s death sparked prison riots in the Eshel, Ramon and Nafha correction facilities on Tuesday. According to the prison service, the rioters, Palestinian inmates who have been incarcerated due to their involvement in terrorism, caused “unrest and disturbances,” banging on cell doors and throwing objects at the guards. Six prison wardens and three prisoners suffered from minor injuries following their exposure to tear gas, which had been used as part of the efforts to quell the riots.
In February, similar riots broke out after Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian detainee, died in the Megiddo prison, shortly after he was arrested.
Israel Radio reported on Wednesday that nearly all Palestinian prisoners refused to eat their breakfast to protest Abu Hamdiyeh’s death, a day after 300 inmates refused to eat their lunch at Hashita prison. Israel Radio quoted prison officials as saying that the hunger strike would likely continue for three days – the mourning period that was declared after Hamdiyeh’s death – although the prisoners have said the strike will go on indefinitely.
The news of Abu Hamdiyeh’s death also sparked demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In Hebron, Palestinian protesters lobbed 12 Molotov cocktails at an Israel Defense Forces checkpoint in the city, with other skirmishes taking place in nearby villages. The soldiers used crowd control measures to disperse the riots, and no injuries or damage were reported. A small riot also broke out near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, with some protesters hurling rocks at Israeli forces.
IDF officials noted Tuesday that the riots had been successfully contained, although security officials were bracing for more demonstrations on Wednesday ahead of Abu Hamdiyeh’s funeral on Thursday. The IDF is particularly concerned about riots in Hebron, where shopkeepers were expected to halt commercial activity to protest Abu Hamdiyeh’s death.
Read more at ISRAEL HAYOM.