Israel said it would not negotiate with hundreds of prisoners who are Palestinian and started a hunger strike pressing for better prison condition, said a minister for the government on Tuesday. He added that the protest’s organizer was put into solitary confinement.
If continued, the strike, which Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti jailed during the second uprising of the Palestinians started, would be the biggest in the past few years.
The strike could also heighten tensions between Israel and Palestinians during a time of renewed attempts by the U.S. to restart the stalled peace talks.
Israel’s rule in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, both territories it captured in 1967 and claimed as part of a future state by Palestinians, will be 50 years in June.
The hunger strike prisoners, who are all Palestinians, seek conditions that are better including having more contact with their relatives, and ending the practice by Israel of detentions without a trial.
Officials from Israel said approximately 1,100 prisoners on Monday had joined in on the hunger strike.
Palestinian officials as well as activists said the number of prisoners on the hunger strike was between 1,300 and 1,500 saying it was difficult getting updates from inside the Israeli prisons.
Palestinian officials added that about 6,500 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons at this time. Israel has named them security prisoners, described as prisoners held for offenses that range from membership in groups that are outlawed to stone throwing to carrying out an attack that wounded or killed Israelis.
Hundreds are held without being charged.
Barghouti, the leader of the hunger strike, is a Fatah movement prominent figure. The group backs current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It is suggested that Barghouti, who is 58, is the Palestinian’s most popular choice to succeed Abbas, who is 82.
Barghouti led the uprising by the Palestinians in 2000 and is serving 5 life sentences after he was convicted by a court in Israel of directing two attacks and a bombing in which five people were killed, including three Israelis.
Barghouti disputed the jurisdiction of the court and did not mount any defense. He has been imprisoned for 15 years.
The Palestinian alleged that detainees and prisoners in Israel suffer from degrading and inhumane treatment, medical negligence and torture. He added that he organized this hunger strike as a way to fight back, following the exhaustion of all his other options.