Israeli police use new force on Palestinians as protests mount in support of hunger strikers

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                                       Maath Musleh arrested today outside of Ramle prison.                                          (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE: This account has been updated below with more accurate information.

Today, Israeli police confronted protestors outside of prisons in both the West Bank and Israel with rubber bullets, tear gas and electric shock, arresting 15. Protesters gathered in support of approximately 2,500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike since April 17, 2012.

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In Ramle, demonstrators amassed outside the prison medical clinic where police shot electrical currents from a Taser gun and arrested eight demonstrators chanting for prisoner rights. Later, protestors moved to the Ramle police station where those arrested where held, and seven more were taken into Israeli custody.

“They beaten us and arrested some because we refuse to leave our comrades who were arrested alone,” tweeted journalist Abir Kopty, whose hand was injured by police. According to Kopty’s updates, Israeli authorities also shouted expletives while arresting protestors.

Within hours, several of the detained, including a bus driver who transported the activists, were released.  Although, remaining in custody is 15 year-old Ward Kayyal, who was transferred to a nearby hospital.  A regular contributor to this site, Leehee Rothschild was also arrested.

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UPDATE: One of those arrested says that 17 in all were arrested and were not released for a full day. No one was tasered outside the Ramle prison, but protesters were during a subsequent gathering outside the police station. All 17 were later attacked, beaten and tasered while in custody in the police station.

Meanwhile in front of the West Bank’s Ofer prison, for the third consecutive day protesters were met with rubber coated steel bullets and tear gas. Five are reported injured, including one man who was struck in the leg by a tear gas canister.

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Palestinian women protesting outside of Ofer prison on May 1, 2012. (Photo: Hamdi Abu Rahma)

The actions come as two Palestinian on extended hunger strikes, Bilal Diab and Tha’er Halahleh, enter their 66th day of fast. Held at the Ramle prison medical clinic, today both met with an Israeli judge who refused to release the men from their administrative detention orders, or imprisonment without charge. As their health is now in imminent risk of death, the continuation of their captivity is considered a de facto death sentence.

Early this morning, the prisoner rights group Addameer posted the following update on Facebook:

No decision was made in today’s Israeli High Court hearing regarding the administrative detention of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, currently on their 66th day of hunger strike. Both Bilal and Thaer were brought to the hearing and attended in wheelchairs. During the hearing, Bilal fainted and there were no doctors present inside the court. Thaer testified to the mistreatment he has suffered since his arrest. Judge Amnon Rubenstein announced that the panel of judges would make a decision after reviewing the “secret file”, but after the review there was still no decision. He said that the parties will be informed of the decision later on, without stating when.

For more on the arrests and protest in support of the hunger strikers follow @AbirKopty and #PalHunger.

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