Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners launch mass hunger strike

Marwan Barghouti in court

Marwan Barghouti in court

Liz Spayd wrote Tuesday that "Barghouti is an unusually popular political figure among Palestinians, especially for a man behind bars". However, Palestinians from the West Bank need an entry permit into Israel and Israeli authorities often deny such permits.

Thousands of Palestinians took the streets of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to mark Prisoners Day on Monday and express their solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli prisons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the New York Times after the newspaper published an op-ed written by Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti.

"Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses ..." The Palestinian Prisoners' Club had put the number at 1,500.

"It is to be emphasised that the IPS does not negotiate with prisoners".

More than 1,000 prisoners in six Israeli prisons have joined the strike, making it one of the largest in recent years. "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.

The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement: "The Palestinian prisoners are not political prisoners".

Barghouti, a terror leader, was arrested in 2002 and convicted on multiple counts of murder. "They were brought to justice and are treated properly under worldwide law".

A portrait of Marwan Barghouti on the separation wall near Qalandia checkpoint leading to Jerusalem from Ramallah
A portrait of Marwan Barghouti on the separation wall near Qalandia checkpoint leading to Jerusalem from Ramallah

The Israel Prisons Service spokesman Assaf Librati said Tuesday that hunger strikers would be disciplined.

Strikers have also said they want access to more television channels and compassionate release for disabled prisoners or those sufferings from chronic illnesses.

Israeli authorities have ruled out negotiating with the striking Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinians consider brethren held in Israeli jails as national heroes.

"Israel is trying to de-incentivize future hunger strikes and is trying to basically embrace the "no concession" policy... they are taking deterrent measures", Zalzberg said.

Barghouti, who was convicted of murdering Israelis during the second intifada, is seen as a major contender to succeed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"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 wrote.

In a statement on Monday, Erekat said the PLO would continue to try to raise worldwide awareness about the issue. He condemned what he called Israel's intransigence in the face of "fair" prisoner demands.

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