Israeli authorities set stringent conditions for release of "Welcome to Palestine" prisoners. The large majority of international visitors are still incarcerated under brutal conditions, begin a hunger strike in Israeli jail
Over 120 internationals attempting to visit Palestine were arrested and are still being illegally detained in two Israeli detention centers, in Ramle and in Beer Al-Saba’ (Beersheva). These friends of Palestine, among which there are minors and elderly persons with medical conditions, have been and are being mistreated and subjected to unnecessary brutality.
For example, Dr. Hikmat Al-Sabty, 57, of Rostock, Germany, is being denied needed medication that is in his suitcase; this was reported to his wife by the German Embassy in Tel Aviv, but his wife has not been allowed to speak with him directly. All of those detained have stated repeatedly that they are non-violent and want only to accept the invitation to visit together with Palestinian friends in the program "Welcome to Palestine."
The Israeli authorities released two older German men from prison yesterday, but only on condition that they sign an Israeli legal document that was presented to them only in Hebrew and English. One of the two men came to Bethlehem. He is uncertain of the full contents of the Israeli paper he signed because his English is not good, and he was unable to first consult with his attorney in Israel before signing the paper: the Israeli authorities yesterday made attorney access to prisoners very difficult, and large number of those detained can only be seen by their attorneys today and tomorrow.
The German man now in Palestine believes that he has agreed in writing not to go to Ramallah, Jenin, and certain other Palestinian cities, but that the Israeli authorities have allowed that he to go to "tourist" areas in the West Bank. Because he is still uncertain of the full content of the Israeli document he signed, he prefers not to give his name at this time. The Israeli authorities refused, in violation of international law, to give him a copy of the paper he signed. His attorney is seeking to obtain a copy of the document he signed from the Israeli authorities.
We received a letter from the Belgian group in Bersheeva prison, who state that they began a hunger strike last night. In the letter, the Belgians demand, on behalf of all the prisoners, to have contact their families and with their attorneys. They demand an international investigation into the behavior of airline companies and Israeli officials. They also demand to be able to have contact with each other in the Israeli prison. For example, because the French and Belgian men and women are separated in the prison, the men do not know whether the women are also aware of the hunger strike. It is believed that the French men have joined the hunger strike. According to the Germans who were released, the German men and women there are also participating in the hunger strike, but the men and women are not allowed to speak with each other.
Those few international guests who were able to reach Bethlehem on Friday were invited by their Palestinian hosts to go to either to a demonstration in Qalandia at noon or else to attend a gathering in Bilin at 11 am, from which they then joined Palestinian friends in Nebi Saleh. There Israeli soldiers prevented the bus-loads of passengers and local Palestinians and Israeli supporters from holding a peaceful demonstration. The Israeli forces shot stun grenades and at least two kinds of tear gas canisters at them. The nearby agricultural fields were set ablaze by these tear-gas canisters. The Israeli forces illegally detained — kidnapped — four peace activists, including three Israeli citizens and one Brazilian. Several participants were injured.
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