[Ppnews] Palestinians demand prisoner release

PPnews at freedomarchives.org PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun Apr 17 13:12:38 EDT 2005

Palestinians demand prisoner release
Sunday 17 April 2005 11:13 AM GMT

Thousands of Palestinians have demonstrated on behalf of prisoners held by 
Israel and denounced their own government for failing to secure their freedom.

Warning on Sunday that peace would be impossible without their release, 
several hundred relatives also marked Palestinian Prisoners Day by staging 
a rally outside the Ram Allah offices of Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya.

Quraya emerged from his office to insist that the release of the estimated 
7000 Palestinian prisoners held by the Israelis was one of his top priorities.

"There are only two issues in our programme. The first is to liberate the 
land. The second is to liberate the prisoners," said Quraya, calling the 
prisoners heroes.

He was heckled by some family members, including one woman who shouted at 
him: "We hear this from you all the time. We don't want speeches, we want 

Israel released 500 Palestinian prisoners shortly after a summit in 
February between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President 
Mahmud Abbas.

It also agreed in principle to the release of a further 400 Palestinians, 
but they remain behind bars.

Protester's frustration

Miriam Shihada, who has been unable to visit two of her sons in an Israeli 
prison for the last four years, said she was exasperated.

"They (the Palestinian Authority) only give us speeches. We are very tired 
and just want our sons released," she told journalists outside Quraya's 

One of the main prisoners' organisations said the continued presence of 
thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails would scupper the chance of 
peace in the Middle East.

"We demand from the PA that we have a real date for the release of the 
prisoners," the central committee for prisoners families said in a statement.

"If the PA cannot give us a date, they must declare to the world that there 
can be no peace with Israel."

Jenin protest

Meanwhile, dozens of members of a Palestinian resistance group blocked 
traffic in the West Bank city of Jenin's main square to demand money for 
families of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel.

The head of the al-Aqsa's Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank, Zakariya 
al-Zubaidi, said on Sunday that his men had "decided to stay 
 until the 
Palestinian Authority pays the stipends [owed to relatives of those killed 
by Israeli occupation forces]".

The Palestinian Authority has made piecemeal payments to the families, but 
the group is demanding monthly allotments.

Al-Zubaidi told the crowd he was ready to march on the offices of local 
parliamentarians. "In half an hour, if we find any of them in their 
offices, there will be blood, and then our only language will be the bullet."

Demand for work

The Brigades leader demanded jobs for Palestinians recently released from 
Israeli prisons and for relatives of those killed during the nearly 
five-year-old intifada.

The fighting has devastated the Palestinian Authority and weakened its 
financial stability.

Thousands of Palestinians were thrown into poverty and joblessness as a 
result of the violence after Israeli military operations and government 
policy dealt a near death blow to Palestinian Authority institutions - one 
of the main internal employers - and barred most Palestinians from entering 
Israel to work.

Before fighting erupted in September 2000, more than 150,000 Palestinians 
worked in Israel. Today, just a few thousand West Bank and Gaza Strip 
Palestinians have permits to work in Israel.

Hunger strike

The protests in Jenin come as Palestinian detainees begin their second and 
final day of a hunger strike in Israeli jails to protest against their 

More than 7000 Palestinian prisoners continued their strike in the hope of 
adding pressure on the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to 
do more to secure their release.

Isa Qaraqia, head of the Palestinian Prisoner Club (PPC), told Aljazeera 
the strike came as a message, warning the international community that the 
situation inside the prisons had become very difficult.

Speaking to Aljazeera by phone, Palestinian prisoner Abu Muhammad 
criticised the conditions in Israeli prisons.

"Israeli occupation authorities permanently exercise psychological warfare 
against prisoners like solitary confinement, banning visits, and 
imprisoning of many Palestinian leaders like Marwan al-Barghuthi, Maluh and 
others," Abu Muhammad said.

"Some of us have been here for 30 years," he said.

Aljazeera + Agencies

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