JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)–Some 1,200 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated throughout the country began an open-ended hunger strike on Tuesday, to mark ‘Prisoner Day’ declared by the Palestinian Authority.
Another 1,100 prisoners reportedly refused meals on Tuesday in solidarity, but without joining the hunger strike.
“We’ve dealt with hunger strikes in the past, and we’re prepared for them now as well,” the Prisons Service said in a statement.
Seven security prisoners were already on hunger strikes before Tuesday’s collective action. They are being held at the Prisons Service’s medical clinic in Ramle, where they are under constant medical supervision.
Prisoners’ families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip held a number of rallies in solidarity with the striking prisoners, but sources said many were disappointed with a low turnout.
Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqi said that some 1,600 security prisoners had planned to join the hunger strike, but several hundred had dropped out “because of political differences among the inmates.” He hoped the numbers would increase as the strike continues.
The hunger strike was initiated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Fatah prisoners have so far refused to join.
Despite most of the security prisoners being convicted terrorists, PA President Mahmoud Abbas demanded that Israel treat them as prisoners of war. He praised them as heroes and urged them to unite.
In an address to the prisoners, Abbas said: “I talk to you from the bottom of my heart to assure you that your case is in my heart, mind, conscience and existence. I carry your case wherever I go and it is at the top of my list of priorities. We will not be comforted until you gain your freedom.”