Palestinian prisoners start hunger strike in Israeli prisons

Marwan Barghouti file

Marwan Barghouti file

More than a thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions. They are also calling for an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention.

Issa Qaraqe, head of prisoners affairs for the Palestinian Authority, said that "around 1,300 Palestinian prisoners" were participating in the hunger strike and the number could rise.

The strike is being led by imprisoned leader of the Fatah movement Marwan Barghouti, hailed by some as "the Palestinian Mandela", but will involve Palestinians from across the political spectrum and those who are politically non-affiliated.

The strike coincides with Palestinian Prisoners Day, which is annually marked on the 17th of April, a month dedicated to Palestinian prisoners.

Since 1967, more than 50 Palestinian prisoners have died due to medical negligence inside Israeli jails, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

The strike prompted a large rally in Gaza and a protest broke out near the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem where Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli forces.

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The action is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.

Al-Taweel said there are high expectations that the Israeli Prison Service will carry out a campaign of prisoner transferals, which she said would be an attempt to "try and break the will and determination of the prisoners".

The strikers also want better medical treatment and that disabled inmates or those suffering chronic illness be freed, access to more television channels and more phone contact with relatives and more family visits.

The Public Security Ministry said that the IPS would not conduct negotiations with the prisoners, in accordance with prison policy, and that all prisoners participating in a hunger strike will receive immediate disciplinary measures. Palestinian political prisoners and detainees are systematically subjected to torture and ill-treatment with continued impunity - highlighting the need for more solidarity actions from people around the globe to call for immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners, long-denied their basic rights. Recent polls have shown the popular Fatah figure could win an election for the Palestinian presidency.

Palestinians consider brethren held in Israeli jails as national heroes.

He said the number is likely to increase in the upcoming days.

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