Palestinian activist leads prisoners in hunger strike

Palestinians push a container during clashes with Israeli forces following a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners in the West bank City of Bethlehem Monday

At the Arab American University in Jenin in the north of the West Bank, 30 students began a hunger strike until Thursday in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinian prisoners have launched one of the biggest hunger strikes in recent years in a protest against prison conditions. Opinion polls suggest Barghouti, who is serving multiple life terms for his role in a violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, is the top contender to succeed Abbas.

Israel now houses over 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in numerous jails across the country, in which an estimated 1,500 could potentially participate in later stages.

Akram Atallah, of the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), told Efe news that it hopes more prisoners will continue joining the call, which coincides with the national Palestinian Prisoners' Day held every April 17. Though most Palestinian political prisoners hail from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, they are placed in prisons inside Israel, in direct contravention of worldwide law.

Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees Committee, stated that the detainees are protesting the escalating Israeli violations, including medical neglect, arbitrary Administrative Detention, denying the family visits and solitary confinement. "The strike led by Barghouti is motivated by internal Palestinian politics and therefore includes unreasonable demands concerning the conditions in the prisons", he said.




He stated that the number of the prisoners who died in Israeli jails has increased to 210.

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".

Top Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi called on the worldwide community to bring an end to the "inhumane" treatment of Palestinian prisoners, which she said was in violation of the Geneva Convention. Officially, the inmates are demanding that Israeli authorities allow more visits from family members and access to telephones.

Barghouti, a key figure in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, has been touted as a possible future successor to Mr Abbas. Palestinian officials including Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip have voiced their support for the strike. Two other Palestinians were also reportedly injured by rubber bullets fired by Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem, according to Channel 2.

Erdan said a field hospital would be erected next to one prison - an apparent move to pre-empt transfers to civilian medical facilities, which could draw wider media attention.

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