Palestinians in Israeli jails launch mass hunger strike

Palestinians consider those held in Israeli jails as national heroes.

Israeli authorities have arrested about one million Palestinians since 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

The Palestinian prisoners seek better conditions, including more contact with relatives, and an end to Israel's practice of detentions without trials.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for its part, which administers prison visits, confirmed that the IPS had informed it of its decision to cancel scheduled visits to hunger-striking prisoners.

Nearly 6,500 Palestinians are being held in 22 Israeli prisons, said Qadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club that advocates on behalf of the inmates.

They said some 6,500 Palestinians are now in Israeli lockups. Several hundred are being detained without charges.

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 U.S. presidency.

Barghouti could quite possibly be the successor to current Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who is 82 and to whom there is no current political heir having been groomed for the position.

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Barghouti is now serving five life sentences for having a prominent role in the second Palestinian intifada - a period of uprising against Israel between 2000 and 2005 that saw the deaths of 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis.

According to a report released by three Palestinian non-governmental organizations, a total of 6,500 Palestinians, including women, children and lawmakers, are being held in prisons and detention facilities across the occupied territories.

"After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike", Barghouti wrote. Barghouti has been in prison since 2002.

"These are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting exactly what the worldwide law requires", he told Israel's Army Radio, adding that under the ministry's policy, "you can't negotiate with prisoners such as these". It accused Israel of "the worst physical and psychological torture" against Palestinian prisoners. He also ordered a field hospital set up outside the Ketziot Prison to keep convicts in need of medical attention out of civilian hospitals.

Erdan said Barghouti was transferred to another prison in northern Israel and was placed in solitary confinement.

The protest was led by Marwan Barghouti, 58, a leader from the mainstream Fatah movement of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, serving five life terms after being convicted of murder in the killing of Israelis in a 2000-2005 uprising known as the Second Intifada.

The United Nations says it is keeping a close eye on the situation of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, who have gone on hunger strike honoring a call by a fellow inmate.

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