As many as 2,000 Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike staged by their fellow Palestinian inmates to assert innocence and protest at miserable confinement conditions in Israeli jails.
Those newly on the strike action copied the protest move on Tuesday to show solidarity with at least 200 Palestinian prisoners, who have been avoiding nourishment for the past two weeks, said Kadoura Fares, who heads a prisoners’ rights group, the Associated Press reported.
The hunger strike has spread through most of Israel’s 23 prisons, where 5,300 Palestinians, including women and children are incarcerated on charges such as throwing stones at Israeli troopers.
Independent sources put the number of the inmates as high as 11,000.
Israeli authorities deny Palestinian prisoners their basic rights such as decent food, medical attention, family visits, bathing, clean clothing, and university or personal education.
Their families have for long been calling on human rights organizations and groups to intervene in order to secure the release of their loved ones, many of whom have been jailed without charge, trial, and sentence, leaving the families without breadwinners.
According to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Detainees, nearly 200 Palestinian inmates have so far died in Israeli confinement either under torture or due to medical negligence.
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, said earlier in the year that at least 40 Palestinian prisoners had suffered chronic illnesses like cancer, renal failure, and strokes.
The Israeli prison administration is also accused of implementing a policy of humiliation, pressure, and punishment under the guise of maintaining security at the jails.
The latest mass hunger strike protest started when a Palestinian leader Ahmed Saadat was placed in solitary confinement. The 60-year-old man is in poor condition after two weeks without food.
Sahar Francis, a lawyer and human rights advocate in the Israeli-occupied territories, said the latest mass hunger strike marked the largest such collective protest action by Palestinian prisoners since 2004, when hundreds of the inmates went on a 17-day hunger strike to demand better confinement conditions.
Earlier this year, the Palestinian Prisoners Study Center called on Red Cross and other local and international human rights groups to help put a stop to the suffering of the Palestinian political prisoners.