Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails launch hunger strike

Israeli prison service spokesperson Assaf Librati said that 700 prisoners had announced on Sunday their intention to begin a hunger strike. All Palestinian political prisoners - regardless of their alleged political affiliations or charges - are entitled to fair trial guarantees under worldwide humanitarian law and global human rights laws.

A prominent leader in the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Marwan Barghouti, had called for the strike.

Despite - or perhaps because of - his prison sentence, Barghouti's popularity has grown among Palestinians, and he is one of the few Palestinian leaders with support from both Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza. Many Palestinians see Barghouti as a potential future leader of the Palestinian Authority, despite his prison sentence.

Some 1,100 prisoners are taking part in the hunger strike and Channel 2 said dozens of other high-profile prisoners had also been moved to different jails or prison wings in a move to disrupt the strike.

According to Barghouti, the hunger strike is meant to end these alleged abuses by Israel. "Some have been killed while in detention".

The 57-year-old Barghouti says that he has been in and out of prison since the age of 15.

The Israel Prison Service still practices the solitary confinement policy against the prisoners and carries out arbitrary searches late at night which are usually accompanied by beatings, insults, and confiscation of personal objects.

Under Israeli regulation, prisoners are entitled to family visits once every two weeks.

"It is unlawful and cruel and the consequences for the imprisoned person and their loved ones, who are often deprived from seeing them for months, and at times for years on end, can be devastating", Mughrabi added.

The report comes as some 1,500 prisoners from all Palestinian political factions are planning to start an open-ended hunger strike on Monday, which marks Palestinian Prisoners' Day, in protest at harsh prison conditions and restrictions on family visits.

There are now 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel, including more than 500 administrative detainees, according to Jerusalem-based prisoner rights group Addameer.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Barghouti's wife, Fadwa, joined about 1,500 marchers.

Palestinians consider brethren held in Israeli jails as national heroes.

Marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day on Monday, Palestinian officials have called for a large show of public support for the prisoners as rallies and other activities are planned in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ashkar touched on the deteriorating conditions of the sick prisoners as the medical negligence practiced against them continues.

  • Elsie Buchanan