Hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel launch hunger strike

Palestinians termed the open-ended strike a protest against poor conditions and an Israeli policy of detention without trial that has been applied against thousands since the 1980s.

While hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners are not uncommon, the scale of this movement is unusual.

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, however, said that the strike was motivated by internal Palestinian politics rather than a complaint on prison conditions, and called the demands "unreasonable".

A man holds a photo of convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti calling for his release during a rally supporting those detained in Israeli jails after hundreds of prisoners launched a hunger strike, in the West Bank town of Hebron on April 17, 2017.

While many Palestinians view Barghouti as a hero, Israelis point to the bloody suicide attacks of the second intifada and his role in the uprising.

There are now approximately 7,000 Palestinians being detained in Israeli prisons, including over 300 children, 8 elected Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and 600 administrative detainees (who are held indefinitely, without charge or trial).

Some 740 Palestinians are held in administrative detention, according to Qaraqe.

Hundreds of security prisoners are expected to announce a hunger strike within the next 24 hours. Palestinians have often resorted to hunger strikes in the past, mostly to target administrative detentions. Though most Palestinian political prisoners hail from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, they are placed in prisons inside Israel, in direct contravention of global law.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the June 1967 Mideast war.

According to Israeli media, the strike was called for by Marwan Barghouti, who was sentenced to five life sentences for five murders plus 40 years for attempted murder.

Although Marwan Al-Barghouti got the most votes in the movement's elections during Fatah's seventh conference past year, he was not chosen for any leadership role. Given his prison sentence, both are symbolic gestures, but are testament to his popularity.

A spokesman for the Israel Prison Service (IPS), Assaf Librati, said the prison service does not, as a rule, negotiate with prisoners.

For Palestinians, the prisons have become a stark symbol of Israel's occupation.

The strike comes in the wake of reports of increases in torture and other human rights abuses against Palestinians at the hands of Israeli authorities.

Al Jazeera reached out to the Israel Prison Service for comment but did not receive a response.

The move would allow Israel to sidestep civilian hospitals which have so far refused to force-feed the strikers, despite an Israeli law passed in July 2015 that legalizes the force-feeding of prisoners.

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