Around 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners from six jails in Israel have kicked off an open-ended hunger strike to protest the horrible jail conditions. Hundreds of other civilians in solidarity with prisoners have taken to the streets to demand basic rights for the inmates and bring to light the difficult conditions people have to face when behind bars.
The strike coincides with Palestinian Prisoners Day, which is marked on April 17 every year. It is led by jailed Marwan Barghouti, a leader of the Fatah movement of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who is serving five life terms after being convicted of murder in the killing of Israelis in a 2000-05 uprising.
People are expected to take to the streets of major Palestinian cities in the occupied territories including Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus to make their voices heard. Prisoners are demanding the installation of a public telephone, resuming bimonthly family visits, allowing second-degree relatives to visit, increasing duration of the visits and allowing prisoners to take photographs with their families.
"On this day, we are reminded of the pain of imprisonment, the cruelty of the occupation and the injustice of the prison cells, as we are reminded of our pride in your steadfastness and sacrifice," said Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in a recorded video message on his Twitter page.
"In the midst of this battle I call on all the Palestinian people and national institutions to show more solidarity so we can deliver the message of the prisoners to the whole world. Let us all push for the largest international, popular and official movement to stand by the prisoners in this critical time,” he added.
According to Addameer, a Jerusalem-based prisoner rights group, there are currently 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel. This includes 300 minors and more than 500 administrative detainees.
Many of these people’s medical requirements are neglected, and owing to this more than 50 Palestinian prisoners lost their lives since 1967, says the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
The site further states that since 1967, 200 detainees have been "martyred" in prison due to “torture, medical negligence, being killed directly after detention or shot dead inside prison by soldiers and guards.”
"The Israeli government will be responsible for any and all of the consequences of this hunger strike — if a prisoner dies, or becomes extremely ill, they are the ones that will have to handle the outcome. Palestinian prisoners have been demanding these basic rights for years," said Amina al-Taweel, spokesperson for the Hebron-based Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies.