Palestinians slam Israel for refusing talks with hunger strikers

Guy Verhofstadt says

He singled out strike leader Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed during the second Palestinian uprising who has been in prison for 15 years.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely describes Barghouti, in an email sent to the worldwide media, as "a convicted murderer and a terrorist", adding: "When a major newspaper with a reputation for responsible journalism becomes a platform for murderers, it provides legitimacy for terrorism". By Israel labeled a terrorist, many Palestinians regard him as a national hero.Prisoners' demands include the abolishment of detention without trial, more family visits, improvement of medical conditions and a pay phone in each prison wing. He called their strike "light", meaning they had gone along with it, but the chances of their sustaining it are nil.

Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian - who has been imprisoned for 15 years - has been placed in solitary confinement after writing an op-ed for the New York Times about a mass hunger strike he is now leading.

"This article explained the writer's prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted". After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.

The prisoners' strike has also coincided with another campaign called "End Security Coordination", which was formed in the wake of last month's killing of the young activist and intellectual, Basel al-Araj. "They understood that those who initiated it had gone a few steps too far", said the IPS source.

The strike, if sustained, could present a challenge to Israel and raise tensions between the two sides as the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip approaches in June.

While Barghouti is affiliated with Fatah, the largest faction of the PLO headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, his hunger strike caused other Palestinian factions to unite behind his effort. She led her item by hyping that "Barghouti is an unusually popular political figure among Palestinians, especially for a man behind bars".

Meanwhile, Barghouti initiated a hunger strike Sunday, following weeks of preparation, that now involves over 1,100 Palestinian prisoners in the Gilboa, Meggido, Nafha, Ketziot, Shikma, Ramon, Hadarim and Nitzan prisons. The Israeli outlet Haaretz published a statement by the country's prison service, saying: "The Israel Prison Service has a great deal of experience in coping with hunger strikes, and it has the ways and the means to deal with them". Many privileges were also withdrawn in response to the strike. Still, as long as the strikers persist, they will not get the support and encouragement of the PA leadership.

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