Palestinians call for strike after prisoner dies of cancer

JERUSALEM (AP): Palestinian factions called for a general strike in the occupied West Bank and urged Palestinians to confront Israeli troops on Tuesday after a Palestinian prisoner died of lung cancer.

Nasser Abu Hamid, 50, a former leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, was sentenced to seven life sentences in 2002 for involvement in the deaths of seven Israelis during the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising against Israel’s occupation in the early 2000s.

Palestinian officials had called for his release as his health deteriorated in recent months.

Abu Hamid’s death came as one of the deadliest years in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in recent decades draws to a close, with the prospects of negotiating a two-state solution and ending Israel’s open-ended military rule over the Palestinians increasingly remote.

The Israel Prison Service confirmed Abu Hamid’s death. It said he was terminally ill and hospitalized a day earlier. The service added that “as in every case of this kind, the incident will be investigated.”

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, said that around 4,700 Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel for security offenses and illegal entry to Israel. It said Abu Hamid was diagnosed with cancer in August 2021.

Palestinian officials blamed Israel for Abu Hamid’s death. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused Israel of “deliberate medical negligence.”

The militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, called for a “a real escalation in the occupation prisons” in response to his death.

The Prison Service said Abu Hamid had received “close and regular treatment by Prison Service medical staff and outside personnel” since his diagnosis.

Fatah called for strikes in cities across the West Bank “in response to the crimes committed against Palestinian prisoners.”

Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, said the Palestinian “movement also called for a day of rage at contact points with the Israeli army.”