By Kareem Khadder
A well-known Palestinian prisoner died of cancer in Israeli custody on Tuesday, sparking outrage among Palestinian groups who accuse Israel of denying him treatment.
Maysara Abu Hamdiya, 64, a retired Palestinian general, had been in Israeli prisons since 2002 and was serving a life sentence for alleged involvement in an attempt to bomb a Jerusalem cafe. He died Tuesday morning in an Israeli hospital after being admitted last week because of his deteriorating health, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Government Media Center.
After the announcement of Abu Hamdiya’s death, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails protested by knocking on the doors of their cells and refusing food, the beginning of what they say is a three-day hunger strike, according to a statement by the Palestinian prisoner association.
Abu Hamdiya had been suffering from throat pain since August 2012 and was diagnosed with cancer in January, the Palestinian Authority said.
During a news conference about Abu Hamdiya’s death, Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of prisoner affairs, said Abu Hamdiya died due to “deliberate Israeli medical negligence.” He said more prisoners are being diagnosed with cancer.
“Israel is committing a new massacre against the Palestinian prisoners,” he said. “Abu Hamdiya died due to deliberate medical negligence,” Qaraqe said. Qaraqe added that Abu Hamdiya was handcuffed when he was admitted to the hospital last week.
Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Prison Service, denied the Palestinian allegations, saying, “We have provided all necessary treatment for Abu Hamdiya.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Israel had ignored all previous standing requests to release Abu Hamdiya and blamed Israel for not releasing him for proper medical treatment.
“The Israeli government in its intransigence and arrogance refused to respond to our efforts to save the life of Abu Hamdiya, which led to his martyrdom inside the Occupation prisons.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad strongly condemned the death of Abu Hamdiya and the continued policy of medical negligence of Israeli prison authorities against prisoners as the delay in providing them with proper medical treatment, a statement from Fayyad’s offices said.
Among the prison protests was a demonstration in the Ramon prison in southern Israel, where prison guards used tear gas to break up the protests, the Israeli Prison Service said.
Weizman, the prison service’s spokeswoman, said that “six guards and three Palestinian prisoners needed medical treatment.”
Abu Hamdiya’s death also sparked protests and clashes in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza.
In Hebron in the West Bank, where Abu Hamdiya was born, dozens of Palestinian protesters were injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers, Palestinian medical services said. Protesters threw rocks and soldiers used rubber bullets and tear gas.
In Jerusalem, Arab Union medical services said that more than a dozen Palestinian protesters were injured outside the Old City when Israeli police broke up a solidarity protest, and several others were arrested.
The death of Abu Hamdiya is the second death in less than two months inside Israeli jails this year. Arafat Jaradat 30, died inside an Israeli detention facility in February.