Palestinian prisoners start hunger strike in Israeli prisons

There are now 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel, including more than 500 administrative detainees, according to Jerusalem-based prisoner rights group Addameer.

Palestinian prisoners are on an open-ended hunger strike to protest the conditions in Israeli jails and to demand the allowance of what they call "basic rights".

The hunger strike was called by one of the leaders of the nationalist Fatah party, Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for attacks during the Second Intifada.

"Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and medical negligence", Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah armed resistance leader who has been imprisoned since 2002, wrote in the The New York Times on Sunday.

Starting Sunday, numerous more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons declared that they were on a hunger strike, which prompted demonstrations of support Monday in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority's de facto capital, and elsewhere in the West Bank.

Israel said the move by the prisoners, many of whom were convicted of attacks or planning attacks against Israel, was politically motivated.

Others are detained under so-called Administrative Detention, which allows suspects to be held without charge for six-month intervals.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are now detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes, and for many Palestinians the prisons themselves have become a stark symbol of Israel's occupation.

He is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.

Other Israeli leaders are calling for a more blood-soaked crackdown, calling on the state to execute numerous prisoners.

Prison Service spokesman Assaf Librati refused to elaborate on Barghouti's role.

Palestinians push a container during clashes with Israeli forces following a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners in the West bank City of Bethlehem, Monday, April 17, 2017. Their plight raised tensions between the Palestinian public and Israeli authorities.

The latest strike is ostensibly an attempt to pressure Israel into improving the conditions for Palestinian prisoners.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the June 1967 war.

For decades, he wrote, Israel's colonial system has sought "to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities".

In support of the hunger strike, the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement containing the list of demands by the hunger strikers.

Barghouti is a prominent member of the Fatah movement, though the Palestinian news wire Ma'an reports that imprisoned Palestinians associated with other movements are also taking part.

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