RAMALLAH, West Bank – Violence broke out Tuesday in several Israeli jails and West Bank cities following reports that a Palestinian prisoner died of cancer at a hospital in southern Israel.
Palestinians said that Maysara abu Hamdieh, 63, died because of medical negligence and called for an international investigation into the situation of Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons, who number close to 5,000.
A spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service, Sivan Weizman, denied claims of medical negligence and said Hamdieh, who was serving a 99-year term, received proper treatment by specialized doctors. She said several prisoners and guards had been hurt in the disturbances that broke out in multiple prisons following news of Hamdieh’s death.
Palestinian prisoners declared a three-day hunger strike and a general strike was called for Wednesday in the West Bank. Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli cars on West Bank roads and clashed with Israeli soldiers in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, Hamdieh’s hometown, and elsewhere. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used to contain the protesters. A protest march was also held in central Ramallah.
Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoners Issa Qaraqi said Hamdieh was diagnosed with throat cancer more than two months ago. However, he said, Israeli prison authorities failed to provide him proper treatment, causing a further deterioration in his health.
Qaraqi said Hamdieh was transferred to a hospital only three days ago after it became clear his cancer was terminal. He was chained to his hospital bed when he died, the Palestinian official said, citing information he received from a lawyer who had visited Abuhamdieh in the hospital.
“An ugly and serious crime has been committed against Abuhamdieh as a result of medical negligence and reluctance to release him,” he said at a press conference in Ramallah.
Weizman, the Israeli prison spokeswoman, said she could not confirm that Hamdieh had been restrained when he died. She said restraints are used for hospitalized inmates on a case-by-case basis.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a meeting that the Palestinian Authority had asked Israel to release Hamdieh so he could get better medical treatment but that its efforts failed. Weizman said the Israel Prison Service sought to release Hamdieh but that parole officials had not acted on the request before the prisoner’s death.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called for an international investigation into the situation of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Hamdieh, a father of four, was a major general in the Palestinian Preventive Security forces when he was arrested in 2002 during the Palestinian uprising. He was eventually sentenced to 99 years in prison on charges that included participation in a foiled suicide bombing plot.
He is the second Palestinian prisoner to die in Israeli jails in less than two months.
Arafat Jaradat, also from the Hebron area, died in prison in February four days after his arrest. Palestinians charged he died from torture during interrogation. Israeli officials said the 30-year-old died of a heart attack.