Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launch mass hunger strike

Masked militants from the Izzedine al Qassam Brigades a military wing of Hamas stand guard near a mockup of a prison cell during a rally marking Palestinian prisoners Day in Gaza City Monday

Protests were also held in Palestinian cities in connection with Prisoners Day, including one in Bethlehem that led to clashes with Israeli forces.

Barghouti began to call for a strike after talks between prisoners' representatives and the Israel Prisons Service - on improving prison conditions - reached an impasse.

You can bet they wish they got the same treatment as the terrorists in Israeli prison.

Qadoura Fares, who runs the Prisoners' Club advocacy group, said over 1,500 prisoners joined the strike and that more were expected to follow.

They said some 6,500 Palestinians are now in Israeli lockups.

A former leader of the Tanzim brigade - the militant wing of the Fatah political party - Barghouti was convicted in 2004 of five counts of murder, including orchestrating attacks against Israelis. Several hundred are being detained without charges. Barghouti is often mentioned prominently in lists of possible successors to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is now 82.

Barghouti, a leader of the 2000 Palestinian uprising, is serving five life terms after being convicted of directing two shooting attacks and a bombing that killed five people, including three Israelis.

Roughly 6,500 Palestinian prisoners are now languishing in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian figures. "After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike". Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be fully willing to wait the situation out, whether it results in the prisoners changing their mind or dying the hard way.

Barghouti wrote in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Monday that Israeli prison authorities are violating prisoners' rights.

"These are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting exactly what the global law requires", he told Israel's Army Radio, adding that under the ministry's policy, "you can't negotiate with prisoners such as these".

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official who participated in the march, reiterated Hamas' demand for a prisoner swap with Israel.

The International Red Cross said that it informed the families of Israel's decision to cancel all visits until further notice, in addition to the confiscation of their clothes and belongings, and isolating them in their rooms.

The prison service has set up a field hospital near the Ketsiot prison in the south to treat prisoners who require medical attention.

Barghouti and another strike leader, Karim Younis, were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) on Monday in an apparent attempt to curb the protest.

"Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian", reads the author description underneath the article "Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel's Prisons".

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