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Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails launch hunger strike

18 April 2017

GAZA/RAMALLAH, West Bank Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday in response to a call by prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as a possible future Palestinian president.

According to Israeli media reports, at least 700 prisoners affiliated to the Fatah movement are joining the hunger strike, which coincides with the annual Palestinian Prisoners Day.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club non-governmental organisation put the number at 1,500.

The call for hunger strike came amidst resentment of Israeli's cruel policies towards political prisoners.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, in a statement carried by official news agency WAFA, "called on the global community to save the life of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails".

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said "Barghouti's strike is motivated by internal Palestinian political motives and therefore includes unreasonable demands regarding prisoner conditions".

Approximately 1 100 prisoners in different facilities had declared their intention to strike, said Israel Prison Service spokeswoman Hana Herbst, adding that the service was taking disciplinary measures. In 2014, dozens of detainees who were being held without trial or charges staged a two-month-long hunger strike to demand their release.

A spokesman for the Israel Prison Service (IPS), Assaf Librati, said the prison service does not, as a rule, negotiate with prisoners.

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.

Israel Prisons Service officials are also reportedly investigating whether the article was smuggled out of prison by Barghouti's lawyers or his wife, the Hebrew-language Ynet news site reported.

For Palestinians, the prisons have become a stark symbol of Israel's occupation.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Monday, Barghouti said a strike was the only way to gain concessions after other options had failed. It also asks for reinstatement of access to pay telephones while in jail and more frequent family visits.

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

Protesters included local and global activists, school students, Palestinian associations and political parties.

The Times makes no mention of Barghouti's history, referring to him at the bottom of the op-ed as "a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian".

Of the 6,500 Palestinian detainees, 62 are women and 300 are minors.

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