Palestinians in Israeli jails launch mass hunger strike

Posted April 20, 2017

FILE - In this August 4, 2001 file photo, Marwan Barghouti marches with bodyguards and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The United Nations says it is keeping a close eye on the situation of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, who have gone on hunger strike honoring a call by a fellow inmate.

"Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel's illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners", he wrote.

Peace talks on the creation of a Palestinian state between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas broke down in 2014.

The move came after he published an opinion piece in The New York Times on the hunger strike. Israeli side will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its occupation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in June 2017. "Israel must not be given a free hand to systematically dehumanize the Palestinian people without any serious accountability or punitive measures", she said in a statement released on Sunday.

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. Several hundred are being detained without charges. "To call Barghouti a "parliamentary leader" is like calling Assad a 'pediatrician, '" Netanyahu said. Polls suggest that Palestinians are not deterred by Barghouti's terrorist record, and is the most popular choice among them to succeed the 82-year-old Abbas.

Rage-fueled comments were largely instigated by word on Barghouti heading the strike, and the American daily "The New York Times" publishing a detailed report authored by the Fatah activist. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court's jurisdiction and legitimacy.

A day before the strike began, Barghouti had described his personal experience in Israeli prisons, speaking of "inhumane" treatment and "humiliation" when explaining the reasoning behind the protest. He said he organized the hunger strike to fight back, after exhausting all other options.

Barghouti is the former leader of the Tanzim armed wing of Fatah and the founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Fatah terror group.

Gilad Erdan tells Israel's Army Radio Tuesday that Marwan Barghouti was punished for "instigating mutiny and leading the hunger strike".

"It is to be emphasised that the [prison service] does not negotiate with prisoners", he said. "There is no reason to give them additional conditions in addition to what they already receive".

He confirmed that Barghouti was transferred to another jail and was placed in solitary confinement.

"This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners' movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom", he wrote.