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Palestinians in Israeli jails launch mass hunger strike

18 April 2017

More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have launched an open-ended hunger strike to demand better conditions in Israeli prisons.

Barghouti, now serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in deadly terror attacks during the second intifada (uprising), accused Israel of "inhumane" treatment of prisoners and "judicial apartheid" in a New York Times opinion piece published Sunday outlining the reasoning for the strike.

Barghouti is serving a life sentence over his role in the violent second Palestinian intifada.

An Israel Prisons Service spokesman said some 1,100 inmates at eight jails had joined the strike.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.

Some 700 Palestinian prisoners launched the indefinite strike on Sunday, a campaign spearheaded by Barghouti.

"Decades of experience have proved that Israel's inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong".

Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to 11 years.

Throughout the op-ed, Barghouti only vaguely alludes to the reason he is in prison.

Librati confirmed that the Prison Service "has started taking disciplinary measures against the strikers, and some prisoners have been transferred to separate wings". Ahmed, who said he'd been arrested seven times in total, has spent a cumulative five and a half years in an Israeli prison-but has only had one family visit in that time.

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A recent report from UK-based rights group Amnesty International also condemned Israel's policy of holding Palestinian prisoners inside Israel, describing it as "unlawful and cruel".

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called Monday for internationalizing the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Many Palestinians see Barghouti as a potential future leader of the Palestinian Authority, despite his prison sentence.

There are around 6,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian figures.

Yousef Jabareen, a member of the Israeli parliament, has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to deal with the demands and accused the Israeli authorities of violating the Fourth Geneva Convention.

"This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners' movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom", he wrote.

He added that hundreds of detainees intend to join the strike in the coming few days.

He condemned what he called Israel's intransigence in the face of "fair" prisoner demands. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions.

It also stated that "in accordance with the policy set by the minister of public security, the Prison Service does not negotiate with the prisoners".

Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed three years ago.