Rafah march for deteriorating hunger strikers as family appeals for support

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(Photo: Joe Catron)

Hundreds of Palestinians, led by Scouts from throughout the besieged Gaza Strip, marched in Rafah today to demand that Israel release Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi, two detainees still on hunger strike.

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(Photo: Joe Catron)

Yesterday, the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, whose attorney Mona Neddaf was able to visit Sarsak and Rikhawi Wednesday, reported their conditions:

25-year-old Mahmoud Sarsak is on his 67th consecutive day of hunger strike today, in protest of being held without charge or trial under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, which provides even fewer legal protections than Palestinians held in administrative detention. Despite claims that he would be released in July, Israeli authorities have yet to provide Mahmoud with an actual release date. During the visit with Ms. Neddaf, Mahmoud’s health was in such grave condition that he could only speak with her for a matter of moments.

Akram Rikhawi remains on hunger strike as well, currently on his 43rd day. Akram has been in Ramleh prison medical center since his arrest in 2004, as he suffers from ailments such as asthma, diabetes and osteoporosis. Due to his pre-existing conditions, Akram’s hunger strike has been even harder on his body, and he is now in very fragile condition.

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(Photo: Joe Catron)

Also yesterday, the family of Sarsak, a national football star and resident of the Rafah refugee camp, appealed for international action to secure his release and save his life:

For us it is unbearable to see Israel has been awarded the hosting of the UEFA Under 21s football championship in 2013 and gears up to participate in the London Olympics, while it routinely arrests, tortures, imprisons and kills Palestinians, including football players, without consequence. This is not fair play. Sports should show solidarity.

As Mahmoud’s family, we call on all people of conscience to demand his immediate release, and to pressure governments and international organisations to force Israel’s compliance with the most basic standards of international law. In particular we ask fellow football players and athletes to speak out in support of Mahmoud – don’t be silent when Israeli cruelty and arbitrariness has destroyed the aspirations of a rising athlete and keeps thousands under inhumane conditions in their jails. We ask sports teams and anti-racist fan clubs to organize in support of Mahmoud and all the other Palestinian political prisoners. Your voice can contribute to saving his life and to a little victory against injustice.

It is time to end Israeli crimes carried out with impunity, and to demand the release of all Palestinians held illegally by Israel, including the other Palestinian prisoners who, along with our beloved Mahmoud, are hunger striking for their dignity and freedom.

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(Photo: Joe Catron)