Hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have gone on hunger strike in one of the biggest actions of its kind and are expected to be joined by hundreds of more inmates.
At least 1,500 prisoners started a mass hunger strike on Monday, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club. The number was expected to soon rise to 2,000.
The head of the prisoner’s affairs for the Palestinian Authority, Issa Qaraqe, said the number would rise.
The prisoners have gone on the hunger strike to protest the harsh conditions of captivity. They demand the family visitations, the installation of public telephones in all prisons to allow communication with relatives, and health care.
Some prisoners have also said they were being denied water during illnesses.
The long-planned strike, which is led by a jailed leader of the Fatah Movement, Marwan Barghouti, coincided with the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, annually commemorated on April 17.
Meanwhile, Palestinians have convened at a site in the city of Tulkarm to voice solidarity with the inmates who have gone on hunger strike.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip have expressed their support for the move.
Hamas also warned “the Israeli 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,” the group said in a statement on Sunday.
According to the Israeli prison service, 700 Palestinian inmates had announced on Sunday their intention to begin a hunger strike.
Meanwhile, the regime’s authorities said they have taken punitive measures against those who have gone on the strike, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported. They threatened to transfer the prisoners to the regime’s notorious prison in the Negev desert.
The prison service also warned the prisoners that hunger strikes or other kind of protest actions are considered “illegal” in the regime’s jails and would be strongly punished.
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained in the regime’s prisons.
The UK-based rights organization Amnesty International recently published a report and condemned Tel Aviv’s policy of holding Palestinian prisoners in Israel, describing it as “unlawful and cruel.”
Prisoners have also been subject to various forms of abuse and ill-treatment, particularly when being interrogated by the regime’s forces, according to reports.