Palestinian prisoners hunger strike against indefinite incarceration in Israeli prisons, 2012


To end administrative detentions and improve conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Time period notes

Two prisoners, Bilala Diab and Thaer Halahleh, began their hunger strike nearly two months before 2,000 more prisoners joined in the mass movement.

Time period

28 February, 2012 to 14 May, 2012



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

The hunger strike took place in Israeli prisons, though protests occurred throughout Gaza and the West Bank
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Two Palestinian prisoners go on a hunger strike against administrative data

Methods in 2nd segment

  • Two Palestinian prisoners go on a hunger strike against administrative data

Methods in 3rd segment

  • Two Palestinian prisoners go on a hunger strike against administrative data

Methods in 4th segment

  • Palestinian citizens gathered in Gaza City to protest in solidarity with prisoners on the hunger strike.
  • 2,000 Palestinian prisoners join in a mass hunger strike.

Methods in 5th segment

  • 30 Palestinian citizens gathered to protest imprisonment conditions outside of Ofer Prison.
  • 2,000 Palestinian prisoners go on a mass hunger strike against prison conditions in Israel.

Methods in 6th segment

  • Protestors at Ramle Prison carried the Palestinian flag.
  • 300 Women marched to Al Manara Square chanting.
  • Hundreds of protestors marched to Ramle Prison
  • 2,000 Palestinian prisoners go on a mass hunger strike against prison conditions in Israel.

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • Palestinian citizens established tents to stand in solidarity of the protestors and display photographs and names of Palestinian prisoners.
  • Palestinian women held pictures of imprisoned Palestinians in support of the hunger strike.

Segment Length

Approximately 2 weeks


Bilala Diab (Palestinian prisoner), Thaer Halahleh (Palestinian prisoner), Qadura Fares (leader of the Palestinian Prisoners Society)


The Palestinian Prisoners' Association Club (inmate advocacy group), Palestinian women and families

External allies

The governments of Jordan and Egypt
Ban Ki-moon (United Nations secretary-general), Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian president)

Involvement of social elites

Ban Ki-moon (United Nations secretary-general), Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian president)


The Israeli government, Israeli police, and Israeli border control

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Protestors, not prisoners on the hunger strike, clashed with police in Gaza twice while protesting.

Repressive Violence

Police arrested and fought with protestors in Gaza and the West Bank.


Human Rights



Group characterization

Palestinian Prisoners
Palestinian families

Groups in 4th Segment

2000 striking prisoners
Ban Ki-moon (UN secretary-general)
Palestinian Prisoners' Association Club (inmate advocacy group)
Qadura Fares (leader of the Palesinina Prisoners Society)
Palestinian women and families
Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian president)

Groups in 6th Segment

Governments of Jordan and Egypt

Segment Length

Approximately 2 weeks

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

3 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

7 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The campaign was a success, save for Israel's failure to agree to stop administrative detainment. Although the Israeli government did, in part, reform the process of administrative detainment, administrative detainment remained. Also, there is no record of Diab and Halahleh being released from the prisons.

Database Narrative

On 28 February 2012, two Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike. Bilala Diab and Thaer Halahleh, both accused by Israel’s government of working with Islamic Jihad (a group responsible for firing rockets into Israel from Gaza), were in Israeli prisons. Israel was holding Diab and Halahleh under administrative detention, meaning that they were imprisoned without being charged. The maximum period for administrative detainment was six months, but a military judge could renew such detainment indefinitely.

Diab and Halahleh had started this hunger strike in protest of their incarceration without formal charges. Their actions gathered the attention not only of other imprisoned Palestinian soldiers, but also of Palestinian families and political officials.

This hunger strike was not the first one organized by Palestinian prisoners. Many prisoners were discontent due to the poor conditions and restriction of rights they faced in prison. When Hamas militants took Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, on 25 June 2006, the Israeli government had restricted these rights and conditions of the Palestinian prisoners. Once Shalit was released on 18 October 2011, though, prisons neither improved conditions nor restored rights.  Two other Palestinian prisoners, Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, had gone on hunger strikes earlier in December of 2011 and the Israeli prisons released them after they had been striking for 66 and 44 days, respectively. These two strikes inspired the 2012 hunger strike begun by Diab and Halahleh.

Both Diab and Halahleh continued their hunger strike into April of 2012. Throughout the two months of their protest, a few other Palestinian prisoners joined in their hunger strike. By mid-April of 2012, Diab and Halahleh were close to death. Six other protestors were in critical condition.

Diab and Halahleh had gone 76 days without food when, on 17 April 2012, two thousand Palestinian prisoners joined in their hunger strike. These protestors supported Diab and Halahleh in the campaign against the conditions under which they were imprisoned.

Also on 17 April 2012, Palestinian citizens gathered in Gaza City to protest in solidarity with those on the hunger strike. This day, 17 April, was Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, a day initially established to remind the public of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Citizens in Gaza and the West Bank held rallies and protests to support the protests and hunger strikes. 

Their mass hunger strike spread throughout Gaza and inspired Palestinian families, many of them having been affected by imprisonment. This movement led to further protests outside of the hunger strike. On 1 May 2012, thirty Palestinian citizens gathered at the Beituniya checkpoint outside of Ofer Prison. They chanted in protest of the imprisonment conditions for about fifteen minutes.  This protest did not last long. Police attacked the protestors, using pepper spray and beating up the citizens. Some citizens fought back, throwing rocks at Israeli Defense Force soldiers to stop them from harming other protestors. These struggles left several protestors injured.

The campaigners also put up solidarity tents for display in villages across the West Bank. These tents featured photographs and names of Palestinian prisoners. Many Israeli peace activists and international aid workers took part in a pilgrimage to the tents.

These protests attracted the attention of many political and international elites. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reached out to Israel’s government and requested that they enter negotiations to end the hunger strike. President Abbas warned that a huge outbreak of anger would likely occur if a prisoner died while fasting as part of the campaign. The secretary-general of the United Nation, Ban Ki-moon, also became involved, calling on Israel to either put the detainees on trial or release them.

On 3 May 2012, 300 women marched to Al Manara Square in Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, chanting, “Yes for hunger strike, no to submission” and “Down with the olive branch, long live the rifle.” This march remained nonviolent. Later that afternoon, however, hundreds of protestors carried Palestinian flags and gathered outside of Ramle Prison, where many of the hunger strikers were held. There, a fight broke out between the police and demonstrators. Police officers arrested several protestors.

Also on 3 May 2012, Diab and Halahleh went, in wheelchairs, before Israel’s Supreme Court to plead for release. Diab fainted during the hearing, due to the length of his hunger strike. The Court did not provide a ruling.

On 14 May 2012, the Palestinian prisoners ended their month-long mass hunger strike. According to the Israeli government, Egypt and Jordan had helped to mediate an agreement. Such external involvement was necessary because Israel did not have direct contact with Hamas, the more radical of the major Palestinian factions and had suspended direct negations with Fatah for 18 months. In the agreement, the Israeli government agreed to end solitary confinement for prisoners and allow family visits to resume for about 400 prisoners from Gaza. Israel had previously halted these visits because Gaza was under the control of Hamas. It is unknown whether the protestors that started the hunger strike were released or not; all that is known is that prisoners were taken out of solitary confinement.

Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, noted that Israel did not commit to end incarceration without formal charges or a trial. Administrative detention, however, would only be renewed if a judge saw new evidence or intelligence. Israel also agreed to improve prison conditions, such as access to televisions and telephone calls. In return, the Palestinian prisoners’ leaders, such as Qadura Fares, president of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, agreed to halt “terrorist activity” inside Israeli prisons. Israel defined terrorist activity as recruitment, practical support, funding, and the co-ordination of operations.

Once the agreement was announced, Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza to celebrate the agreement. In downtown Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians held a candlelight victory march.


Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, two Palestinian prisoners that each went on their own hunger strikes, influenced this campaign. (1)


Kershner, Isabel. “Palestinians in Israeli Jails End Hunger Strike.” New York Times: 14 May 2012,

Sherwood, Harriet. “Palestinian Prisoners End Hunger Strike,” The Guardian. 14 May 2012.

Rudoren, Jodi. “Palestinians Go Hungry to Make Their Voices Heard,” The New York Times. 3 May 2012,

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Aileen Eisenberg, 28/04/2013