Some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are due to begin a mass hunger strike on Tuesday to protest their conditions, a Palestinian minister said.
“There are 1,600 Palestinian prisoners who will start a hunger strike on Tuesday in order to improve their conditions inside the occupation prisons and we have set up a national programme to demonstrate solidarity with them,” prisoners minister Issa Qaraqaa told AFP on Sunday.
The expected hunger strike will coincide with Prisoners’ Day, an annual event during which people hold demonstrations and rallies of solidarity with the estimated 4,700 Palestinian inmates being held by Israel.
There are currently 10 Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli prisons, four of whom have been transferred to prison hospitals due to the fragile state of their heath, the Palestinian Prisoners Club says.
All 10 are being held under administrative detention orders, which allow a court to order an individual to be detained without charge for periods of up to six months at a time, which can then be extended.
Israel Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman put the figure of detainees on hunger strike at six.
Two of them, 27-year-old Bilal Diab and 34-year-old Thaer Halahla, have both been refusing food for 48 days, with medics expressing concern for their deteriorating health.
Although prisoners have been known to stage hunger strikes in the past, the practice of refusing food has becoming an increasingly popular form of protest since a landmark protest by another prisoner who went more than nine weeks without eating to protest his being held without charge.
Khader Adnan refused food for 66 days, agreeing only to end his hunger strike after a deal was struck ensuring he would be released at the end of his four-month term — which ends on Tuesday.
Shortly before he ended his fast, a woman prisoner called Hanaa Shalabi also began refusing food to protest being held under administrative detention.
She refused food for 43 days before agreeing a deal with Israel under which she would be deported to Gaza for three years in exchange for ending her hunger strike.
There are 4,700 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, of which 120 have been held since before the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club. Most of them are serving life sentences.