Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Israeli Cancels Family Visits to Palestinian Prisoners on Strike

The New York Times apologized Monday for publishing an opinion piece by convicted terror leader Marwan Barghouti demonizing Israel and questioning its right to exist.

The strike was called by imprisoned Fatah party leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for his involvement in the killing of Israelis earlier this century.

Observers fear the protests could snowball into increased hostilities across the West Bank. Over the years, polls have indicated that Barghouti is the most popular choice among Palestinians to succeed current PA head Mahmoud Abbas.

The challenge to the Israeli authorities comes at a time of reduced violence.

"Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses ... Some have been killed while in detention", he wrote.

As the strike for better conditions involving more than 1,100 prisoners in eight prisons entered its second day, the Israeli authorities moved swiftly to contain the protest, dispersing key figures to different prisons and ordering searches to prevent inmates sending messages. "It is to be emphasized that the (Prisons Service) does not negotiate with prisoners".

More than 1,000 prisoners in six Israeli prisons have joined the strike, making it one of the largest in recent years.

The Palestinian Committee for Prisoners' Affairs said that hunger-striking prisoners had been forcibly dispersed to different sections of Israeli jails, with clothes and personal property confiscated.

Librati said that some 1,100 detainees in several prisons had announced their intention to go on hunger strike.

"Israeli authorities claim the decision [to cancel scheduled visits to prisoners] came due to the state of emergency declared in the prisons", he said. Building new settlements in the occupied territories is considered a violation of worldwide law.

The Prisoners' Club said a main demand was for Israel to halt detention without trial for some 500 Palestinians now being held and for an end to solitary confinement.

"Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel's illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners", he wrote.

Israel has said it will not negotiate with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who began a hunger strike to improve conditions. Barghouti himself was convicted of five murders.

Israeli public radio reported that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has ordered intervention units to be put on standby and a field hospital to be set up outside one prison to avoid having to take sick prisoners to civilian hospitals.

Abbas, 82, said in a statement that efforts would continue to secure prisoners' freedom.

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