Palestinian prisoners launch mass hunger strike in Israeli jails

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 20, 2017

Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, released a statement of support for the hunger strikers.

Israeli authorities have placed him under solitary confinement for calling the strike - now in its second day.

Roughly 6,500 Palestinian prisoners are now languishing in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian figures.

Barghouti has remained politically active from behind bars, and is often touted as one of a few likely successors to the 82-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The issue of Palestinians held in Israeli jails is an ongoing source of tension between the two sides.

The strike also comes ahead of commemorations this summer marking 50 years since the 1967 Six Day War and the start of Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The objective of the strike is ostensibly to protest prison conditions, to receive more visitation time with family and to end detention without trial, but a number of observers see the effort as part of a Barghouti run for PA leadership. The Palestinian Prisoners' Club had put the number at 1,500.

"Israel is taking it seriously simply because of the possible consequences", said Ghassan Khatib, a professor at Birzeit University and a former Palestinian official. Several hundred are being detained without charges.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas called on the global community "to intervene to save the lives of Palestinian prisoners who have opened hunger strikes... in light of the Israeli government's narrow-mindedness and refusal to accept the prisoners' just and humanitarian demands".

He is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.

More hardline still was the reaction by Israel's intelligence and transportation minister, who tweeted that Barghouti should have been executed after his conviction for murder in 2004 in an Israeli court.

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.

This is not the first time there has been hunger strikes carried out by Palestinian inmates, with the first beginning in 1998 and continuing on a number of occasions throughout the years.

"When a despicable murderer like Barghouti protests in prison for improved conditions, while the relatives of those he murdered are still in pain, there is only one solution - death penalty for terrorists", Katz tweeted Monday.

"The New York Times has provided a platform to a terrorist without noting the fact that he planned and carried out the cold blooded murder of Jews simply for having been Jews", she said.

"It is to be emphasised that the IPS does not negotiate with prisoners". "There is no reason to give them additional conditions in addition to what they already receive". The nation's officials have also refuted Barghouti's claims that prisoners held in the country are regularly subjected to medical neglect and torture, as well as inhumane treatment.

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