Israel puts leader of hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in solitary

Israel puts leader of hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in solitary

Barghouti is a leader of one of the largest protests in Israeli jails in recent years, where some 1,200 detainees in several prisons announced on Monday an indefinite hunger strike until Israel accepts their demands to improve incarceration conditions. The Palestinian Prisoners Club put the number at 1,500.

"I have instructed the prison service to act in any way to contain the strike within the walls of the prisons and the Israel Police to prepare and provide any help needed to the prison service for any scenario that is likely to develop", said Erdan following the discussions.

Barghouti, who was convicted of murdering Israelis during the second intifada, is seen as a major contender to succeed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Long-term mass hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners are rare, but in past cases of individual inmates who stopped eating for weeks, detention terms were shortened or not renewed after they were hospitalized in critical condition. He added the action could have been avoided had Israel entered into discussions with prisoners and not ignored the situation. However, Israeli security officials believe that Barghouti's real reason for the strike is to show that he still holds considerable political power in the Palestinian world.

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.

"As part of Israel's effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by worldwide observers", he wrote.

The 57-year-old Barghouti says that he has been in and out of prison since the age of 15. Officially, the inmates are demanding that Israeli authorities allow more visits from family members and access to telephones.

"The prisons service has started taking disciplinary measures against the strikers and in addition a number of prisoners have been transferred to separate wings", he said.

The hunger strike is a way of "bringing prisoners closer to their basic rights and demands and preventing the occupation from harming the dignity of the Palestinian prisoners", he said in a statement. They have only recently subsided after the 2014 Gaza war and a wave of Palestinian attacks that has declined only in recent months. Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and medical negligence.

Israeli public radio reported that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had described the demands as "unreasonable".

Protesters included local and worldwide activists, school students, Palestinian associations and political parties.

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