More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails have launched an open-ended hunger strike on Monday demanding an end to Israel’s practice of detentions without trial and better conditions in prisons.
The protest announced on Sunday evening, the Palestinian Prisoners Day, is led by Marwan Barghouti who is a prominent figure in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. Barghouti, who is serving multiple life terms for his role in a violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, is the top contender to succeed Abbas.
“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. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike,” Barghouti wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times, explaining the reasons of strike.
This is the biggest protests in recent times with inmates from Hamas and Islamic Jihad also participating.
The entire global community should be alarmed by Israel’s willful breach and devaluation of the rights and lives of Palestinian political prisoners, especially in regards to the imprisonment and ill-treatment of Palestinian men, women, children, and the elderlyDr. Hanan Ashrawi, PLO Executive Committee Member
Several activists in the al-Duheisha refugee camp also shaved their heads in solidarity with the hunger strikers, and a a rally took place Sunday marking prisoners’ day in the nearby Aida refugee camp.
“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,” Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies’ spokesperson Amina al-Taweel said.
In recent years, previous Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli custody have come close to death and had to be hospitalized. Their plight raised tensions between the Palestinian public and Israeli authorities, NPR reported.
Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released Saturday by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
“The question of Palestinian prisoners is central for the Palestinian cause,” the statement affirmed.