Hundreds of Palestinians jailed in Israel go on hunger strike

The hunger strike was led by Marwan Barghouti, a prominent figure in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. Opinion polls suggest that Barghouti, who is serving multiple life terms for his role in a violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, is the top contender to succeed Abbas.

Prisoners' Rights activist Qadoura Fares told AP that more than 1,500 of the 6,500 Palestinians held in Israel were part of the protest.

The open-ended strike was launched to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day amid calls by detainees for the resumption of prison visits, better medical care and better treatment of female prisoners.

The New York Times has given precious space on its op-ed page to a Palestinian man leading a hunger strike in an Israeli prison.

"Decades of experience have proved that Israel's inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong".

"Even though it is one of the most unsafe and hard decisions, they [inmates] are only making this choice because conditions [inside the prisons] have reached a new low", Amina al-Taweel, spokesperson for the Hebron-based Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies, told Al Jazeera. The strike began at Hadarim prison, where Barghouti is now held. The Israel Prison Service still practices the solitary confinement policy against the prisoners and carries out arbitrary searches late at night which are usually accompanied by beatings, insults, and confiscation of personal objects.

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Strikers have also said they want access to more television channels and compassionate release for disabled prisoners or those sufferings from chronic illnesses. The Palestinian Prisoners Club put the number at 1,500. The Times author bio described Barghouti as "a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian".

He further accused Israel of establishing "a form of judicial apartheid" that lets Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians off easy, while "criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance". "Until then, the Israeli authorities must stop imposing excessive restrictions on visitation rights as a means of punishing prisoners and their families, and ensure that conditions fully meet worldwide standards", the report read.

Librati stated that prison officials will be updating numbers later in the day as some prisoners "said they would only observe a symbolic protest strike and then resume eating afterwards".

At the Ofer Prison near Ramallah a total of 11 protesters were injured, including the five by live fire, Israel's Channel 10 reported.

Now 500 Palestinians are being held in this way, according to Mr Fares.

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