Abu Hamid, 50, was a former leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. He has served multiple life sentences since 2002 after being convicted of the deaths of seven Israelis during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising against the Israeli occupation in the early 1990s. year 2000.
Palestinian officials have called for his release as his health has deteriorated in recent months.
Prisoners held by Israel, even those convicted of violent crimes, are seen by many as heroes in Palestinian society for resisting the Israeli military occupation, now in its 55th year. Israel consider them terrorists.
Hundreds of people joined the march in honor of Abu Hamid in Ramallah, the capital of the Abbas government. Protesters hold yellow Palestinian and Fatah flags, while others hold posters of Abu Hamid next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. A group of gunmen dressed in black paraded through the city, shooting into the air.
Businesses across the West Bank were closed for the day, and smaller protests took place in several towns and cities in the West Bank, as well as in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Hamid’s death comes as one of the bloodiest years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in recent decades draws to a close, with the prospect of negotiating a two-state solution and ending rule. Israel’s unlimited military power over the Palestinians is increasingly distant. No serious clashes were reported on Tuesday.
The Israeli Prisons Authority confirmed Abu Hamid’s death. It said he was terminally ill and had to be hospitalized the day before. The service added that “as in all cases of this kind, the case will be investigated.”
The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, says about 4,700 Palestinians are being held by Israel for security breaches and unauthorized entry into Israel. It said Abu Hamid was diagnosed with cancer in August 2021.
Palestinian officials blame Israel for Abu Hamid’s death. Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused Israel of “intentional medical negligence”.
The militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has called for “a real escalation in occupied prisons” in response to his death.
The Prison Service said Abu Hamid had been “closely and regularly treated” by medical staff in prison and outside since his diagnosis.