Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners launch mass hunger strike


Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails on Monday launched an open-ended hunger-strike demanding better conditions and more access to relatives. They also reportedly discussed the prisoners' demand that Israel "comply with global law" with respect to their treatment.

Barghouti, now serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in deadly terror attacks during the second intifada (uprising), accused Israel of "inhumane" treatment of prisoners and "judicial apartheid" in a New York Times opinion piece published Sunday outlining the reasoning for the strike. Because Barghouti highlights two of Israel's most pernicious lies: that there is no one to talk to on the Palestine side (when in fact it is the Palestinians who are still seeking a partner for peace), and that the resistance to Israel's occupation is violent.

Observers fear the protests could snowball into increased hostilities across the West Bank.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are now in jail in Israel.

However, Barghouti's initiative is in stark contrast to the recent perceived lack of leadership of Mr Abbas, who has so far failed to find a credible strategy to articulate since Donald Trump's election to the USA presidency.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel protested to the New York Times over the piece.

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"Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses ..."

"In the midst of this battle I call on all the Palestinian people and national institutions to show more solidarity so we can deliver the message of the prisoners to the whole world. Some have been killed while in detention", he wrote. As part of Israel's effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by worldwide observers.

Hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners occur regularly, but rarely on such a large scale. "He is a convicted murderer and a terrorist. They were brought to justice and are treated properly under worldwide law".

The official number of detainees who are taking part in the strike remains unclear.

Israel Prison Service said about 1,100 prisoners joined the strike on Monday.

According to human rights organizations, there are now about 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel, including 57 women, 300 children, 13 legislators, 500 administrative detainees, 18 journalists and 800 prisoners requiring medical attention.

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Palestinian inmates regularly hold hunger strikes in protest against the administrative detention policy and their harsh prison conditions.

"When they ask for the basic rights like public telephone and regular visits by their families, these are legitimate rights", said Omar Yaghmour, the brother of a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike.

Palestinians consider brethren held in Israeli jails as national heroes.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Tuesday that he has asked the Health Ministry to prepare field hospitals to treat Palestinian Authority security prisoners who have undertaken a hunger strike, but he warned that the ministries under his jurisdiction would not negotiate with the striking prisoners.

The hunger strike was launched as the approaching half-century milestone of Israeli rule over Palestinians appeared to generate new interest in the long-running conflict, which in recent years was often overshadowed by war and turmoil elsewhere in the region.

Israeli prison officials reportedly accused Barghouthi of using his wife to "smuggle" the article out of prison and to the New York Times.

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Abbas, 82, said in a statement that efforts would continue to secure prisoners' freedom.