Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Palestinian Prisoners Stage Massive Hunger Strike In Israel

Palestinians have rallied in the occupied West Bank in support of the hunger strikers.

Erdan said Barghouti's transfer to solitary confinement was unrelated to the opinion piece.

The large-scale hunger strike began on Monday, with prisoners demanding improved conditions, including visits, medical treatment, and education.

Israeli officials have dealt with hunger strikes on the part of Palestinian protestors before, however, they are clearly rattled by the scale of this one, which comes as the worldwide community recognizes the 50 anniversary of the Israeli occupation.

With the Israeli occupation of Palestine soon marking 50 long years, and with Israel's backer the United States unwilling or unable to rein in its excesses, Palestinians have had to turn to other means to resist.

Palestinian officials and activists put the number of hunger strikers at 1,300 and 1,500, respectively, saying it is hard to get updates from inside the prisons.

It was unclear whether the strike could be sustained to the point of forcing concessions from the Israeli authorities, but experts said it nonetheless had the potential to stir passions among Palestinians. They are murderers. They are terrorists and we never lose our clarity because we are on the right side. Several hundred are being detained without charges.

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Many receive monthly "salaries" from the Palestinian Authority, and Israel provides study opportunities for those who are interested.

Barghouti has remained politically active behind bars, and is a popular figure among Palestinians who have tipped him among likely candidates to succeed 82-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

There is no mention that Barghouti was convicted of five counts of murder and one attempted murder after being given a fair trial, and that he was the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades during the Second Intifada. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court's jurisdiction and legitimacy.

In an opinion piece published this week in The New York Times, Barghouti alleged that Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israel "have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence".

"After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike", Barghouti wrote. "Calling Barghouti a 'political leader" is like calling Assad a 'pediatrician.' They are murderers and terrorists".

"These are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting exactly what the worldwide law requires", Erdan said in an interview with Israel's Army Radio.

"It is to be emphasised that the [prison service] does not negotiate with prisoners", he said.

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