Maher al-Akhras, former long-term hunger striker, seized by occupation forces; launches immediate hunger strike

Occupation forces seized Palestinian leader Maher al-Akhras, a former prisoner and long-term hunger striker whose 103-day hunger strike won his freedom and galvanized Palestinian, Arab and international support, from his home in Silat al-Dhahr, south of Jenin, in the early morning hours of 23 August 2023. His family announced that he had immediately launched a hunger strike upon his arrest to demand his immediate release. The immediate launch of his hunger strike recalls that of Sultan Khallouf — currently on strike in occupation prisons — and of Sheikh Khader Adnan, the martyr of the prisoners’ movement whose life was taken on 2 May after 86 days of hunger strike.

The arrest of Maher al-Akhras came together with a widespread arrest campaign throughout the West Bank of occupied Palestine conducted by Israeli occupation forces. In the late night of 22 August and the early morning of 23 August, occupation forces seized at least 14 Palestinians, including former prisoner (and the son of imprisoned Hamas leader Nazih Abu Aoun) Islam Abu Aoun from Jaba, south of Jenin; Najm Mahmoud Fashafsha, Ezz Abdel-Salam Ghanem, both also from Jaba; Sadiq Abu al-Khair, a leader in the Islamic Jihad Movement, from Silat al-Harthiya near Jenin; Mahmoud Freihat, from Al-Yamoun, west of Jenin; Bilal Shayyeh, from Tal, west of Nablus; Ihsan al-Rimawi, from Beit Rima; Ameed Hijazi from Nablus, a student at An-Najah University recently detained by the Palestinian Authority; former prisoner Said Bakr Bilal from Nablus; Abed Arar, from Beit Ummar, north of al-Khalil; Sheikh Ammar Manna from Izbat al-Jarad, near Tulkarem; Amer Ashraf Abdel-Ghani and Ahmed Shafiq Abdel-Ghani, from Saida, near Tulkarem. Ahmed Shafiq Abdel-Ghani is the son of a martyr, Shafiq Abdel-Ghani, and a released prisoner, and Amer is his cousin.

Al-Akhras joins 10 fellow Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. Eight are on hunger strike against administrative detention: Kayed Fasfous and Sultan Khallouf, for 21 days (both former long-term hunger strikers who won their freedom through battles of steadfastness during previous periods of administrative detention); Osama Daqrouq, for 18 days; Anas Kamil, Mohammed Zakarneh, Zuhdi Abido and Abdel-Rahman Baraqa, for 14 days; and Saif al-Din Diab, for 4 days. They are demanding an end to their imprisonment without charge or trial; they are among 1200 Palestinians jailed arbitrarily with no charge or trial, nearly one-fourth of the Palestinian prisoners in total, who are nearly 5,000. Maher al-Akhras was previously jailed under administrative detention in his lengthy strike in the year 2000.

Also on hunger strike for the past 10 says are Islam Bani Shamsa, in protest of his arbitrary transfer to Ramon prison; arbitrary transfer is frequently used by the Israeli occupation to disrupt Palestinian prisoners’ lives. Hatem al-Qawasmeh is on hunger strike for 10 days to demand his reunification with his fellow imprisoned brother, Hazem al-Qawasmeh.

Sheikh Khader Adnan at Ramallah protest to free Maher al-Akhras in 2020, organized by Samidoun Palestine and student activists.

Al-Akhras is married to Taghreed al-Akhras, and he is the father of six children. His last hunger strike drew widespread support and solidarity: Artists, activists, parliamentarians join rolling hunger strikes in solidarity with Maher al-Akhras: Samidoun EspañaAnti-Imperialist Front launches solidarity strike for Maher al-AkhrasIrish activists announce solidarity hunger strike for Maher al-Akhras. This came especially after images of his emaciated body in Kaplan hospital were shared around the world. The occupation has been actively attempting to prevent Palestinian hunger strikers from being transferred to civilian hospitals in order to prevent these images from reaching the broader public — a deadly policy, as seen in the case of Khader Adnan.

Since his release, he has become an even more prominent spokesperson representing the views of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, who regularly speaks about and attends events in support of Palestinian prisoners.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network condemns the arrest of Maher al-Akhras and his fellow Palestinian prisoners, and we urge all supporters of Palestine to take action to support the hunger strikers and all Palestinian prisoners struggling for freedom, for their own lives and for the Palestinian people. These sons of the Palestinian popular masses are confronting the system of Israeli oppression on the front lines behind bars, with their bodies and their lives, to bring the system of administrative detention to an end. With over 1200 Palestinians jailed without charge or trial — over 20% of all Palestinian prisoners — the struggle to bring down administrative detention is more urgent than ever. Take these actions below to stand with the hunger strikers and the struggle for liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea!

Download these signs for use in your campaigns:

TAKE ACTION: 

Protest at the Israeli Embassy or Consulate in Your Country!

Join the many protests taking place around the world — confront, isolate and besiege the Israeli embassy or consulate in your city or country of residence. Make it clear that the people are with Palestine! Send us your events at samidoun@samidoun.net.

Take to the streets: Organize a protest in solidarity with Palestine!

Take to the streets and join actions for justice! Organize your own if there is none in your area, and send us your events at samidoun@samidoun.net.

Boycott Israel!

The international, Arab and Palestinian campaign to boycott Israel can play an important role at this critical time. Local boycott groups can protest and label Israeli produce and groceries, while many complicit corporations – including HP, G4S, Puma, Teva and others, profit from their role in support Zionist colonialism throughout occupied Palestine. By participating in the boycott of Israel, you can directly help to throw a wrench in the economy of settler colonialism.

Demand Your Government Sanction Israel!

The racist, settler colonial state of Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinian people are enabled and backed extensively by the over $3.8 billion each year given to Israel by the United States — targeted directly to support the Israeli occupation military killing children, women, men and elders throughout occupied Palestine. From Canada to Australia to the European Union, Western governments and imperialist powers provide ongoing diplomatic, political and economic support to Israel as well as selling billions of dollars of weaponry to the settler-colonial state. Meanwhile, they also purchase billions of dollars in weaponry from the Israeli state. Governments in league with imperialist powers, such as in the Philippines, Brazil, India and elsewhere, also buy weapons and “security” services — all “battle-tested” on the Palestinian population. Call your representatives, MPs, political officials and demand your government sanction Israel now, cut off all aid, expel its ambassadors, and stop buying and selling weapons!

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