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Palestinians in Israeli jails launch mass hunger strike
22 April 2017, 12:54 | Terri Saunders
Israeli officials said some 1,100 prisoners joined the strike on Monday, which they claimed was called to demand better conditions.
Barghouti has spent 15 years in prison since being arrested by Israeli forces in 2002, during the Second Intifada, as leader of the ruling Fatah faction's military wing.
Akram Atallah, of the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), told Efe news that it hopes more prisoners will continue joining the call, which coincides with the national Palestinian Prisoners' Day held every April 17.
This is also the year to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for its actions and to demand the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners!
Barghouti began to call for a strike after talks between prisoners' representatives and the Israel Prisons Service - on improving prison conditions - reached an impasse.
Two leading Israeli human rights groups describe the conditions in prisons such as Shikma Prison in southern Israel as "hellish", with some inmates reportedly shackled to chairs during interrogation and held in solitary confinement in cramped and foul smelling cells no more than two metres long.
Palestinian leaders, including Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi, have backed the strike.
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The prisoners say they are striking for more contact with relatives, and an end to detention without trial.
Some 740 Palestinians are held in administrative detention, according to Qaraqe.
The Times published an op-ed by Barghouti on Sunday, in which he explains his and other prisoners in Israel's reasons for beginning a mass hunger strike.
The last large-scale hunger strike was in February 2013, when 3,000 Palestinians refused to eat for one day in protest at the death of a fellow detainee.
However, Barghouti's initiative is in stark contrast to the recent perceived lack of leadership of Mr Abbas, who has so far failed to find a credible strategy to articulate since Donald Trump's election to the United States presidency. Barghouti himself was convicted of five murders. He is now serving multiple life sentences. Barghouti was also convicted of masterminding a suicide bombing attack that backfired and only killed the bombers. Given his prison sentence, both are symbolic gestures, but are testament to his popularity.
Estimates of prisoners participating in the hunger strike vary between 1,100 and 1,500.
The Israel Prison Service threatened to punish the hunger strikers. "It is to be emphasized that the (prison service) does not negotiate with prisoners". It accused Israel of "the worst physical and psychological torture" against Palestinian prisoners.
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