Israeli prison guards have fired teargas on Palestinian inmates in several Israeli jails who have been protesting the death of a prisoner who died of cancer.
Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, who was serving a life sentence in Israeli jail, died of throat cancer on Tuesday. Palestinians blame Israel for a late diagnosis and lack of proper medical treatment.
At Ramon jail, in southern Israel, inmates threw objects at guards, who responded with teargas, the prisons service spokeswoman said.
Three prisoners and six guards were treated at the jail for teargas inhalation, she said.
In Hebron, Abu Hamdiyeh’s hometown, around 300 demonstrators threw stones at Israeli soldiers near the entrance to the Old City, with troops firing teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets, an AFP correspondent said.
“His death has created a lot of tension across the West Bank. There have been protests and rioting,” Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnson reported from Ramallah.
Palestinians, who view jailed brethren as heroes in a fight for statehood, have held several protests in the West Bank in recent weeks in support of prisoners.
One of the main points of concern is prisoners on long-term hunger strike who are held under “administrative detention” – meaning they are held indefinitely without charge or trial.
Abu Hamdiyeh was the second Palestinian to die in Israeli prison this year. Arafat Jaradat, 30, died under dubious circumstances after being interrogated by Israeli authorities in February.
Palestinian officials say he had been tortured, but Israel denies these allegations without adequately explaining how Jaradat died.
Many former and current Palestinian prisoners complain of ill-treatment and the use of violence by Israeli forces during arrests and interrogations.
Abu Hamdiyeh, who was arrested in 2002 in the West Bank, began complaining of throat problems about nine months ago and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.
Issa Karakeh, Palestinian prisoner affairs minister, called Abu Hamdiyeh’s death a “vicious crime” which had come about due to Israel’s “stalling over giving him the right to be treated following a late cancer diagnosis”.
“In one instance, when they took him away after he had collapsed and lost consciousness and lots of weight – they gave him flu shots.”
Qadura Fares, head of Ramallah-based Prisoner’s Club, blamed Israel for its “refusal to release him for treatment”.
According to the Prisoner’s Club, 25 inmates serving time in Israeli jails are currently suffering from cancer. The Palestine Liberation Organisation has warned that more terminally ill prisoners could die.
“We are still looking at a grave situation with hunger-striking prisoners and dozens of cases of long-term illnesses in need of treatment,” it said.
About 4,800 Palestinians are held as prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel claims most of them planned or carried out anti-Israeli attacks.
Palestinians view them as political prisoners and freedom fighters attempting to end the illegal occupation. They say many prisoners were jailed on false or trumped-up charges.
Israel also holds 178 “administrative” as suspected fighters for renewable six-month terms based on secret evidence that even detainee’s and their lawyers are often not allowed to see.
Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital – territories Israel occupied illegally in 1967.