Jerusalem, April 17: Hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel went on mass hunger strike in a protest for basic rights and shed light on the difficult humanitarian conditions inside Israeli prisons. The open-ended massive hunger strike led by high-profile Fatah prisoner and leader Marwan Barghouti.Many prisoners suffer from medical negligence in jails. Prisoners must pay for their own medical treatment, and are not provided with the adequate health care. Sick prisoners have also reported being denied water. Prisoners' demands include installation of a public telephone in all prisons to allow communication with relatives, resuming bi-monthly family visits, allowing second-degree relatives to visit, increasing the duration of the visits and allowing prisoners to take photographs with their families. Other demands include installing air conditions in prisons, restoring kitchens, allowing detainees to keep books, newspapers, and clothes, as well as ending the policies of administrative detention and solitary confinement.
The protest includes members of Fatah as well as prisoners from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. "They have central demands and will continue to fast until they achieve them. The prisoners see hunger striking as the only door they can knock on to attain their rights," Amina al-Taweel, spokesperson for the Hebron-based Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies. "Even though it is one of the most dangerous and difficult decisions, they are only making this choice because conditions [inside the prisons] have reached a new low," said al-Taweel.
According to Israel's prison service, 1,187 Palestinians in Israeli prisons are joining the hunger strike, which coincides with the annual Palestinian Prisoners Day. The issue of Palestinians held in Israeli jails is an ongoing source of tension between the two sides. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, as well as Hamas leaders in Gaza, has announced their backing.
Rami Hamdallah said that "On this day, we are reminded of the pain of imprisonment, the cruelty of the occupation and the injustice of the prison cells, as we are reminded of our pride in your steadfastness and sacrifice.”
In a statement from Hamas, the group said: “We warn the Israel Prison Service against bringing any harm to the hunger strikers. Any delay in answering their just demands will explode the situation inside all prisons. All prisoners will unite in the face of all those who might harm prisoners and their dignity.”