Israel: 1,200 Palestinian prisoners begin hunger strike

JERUSALEM:  Some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails have begun a hunger strike, while another 2,300 are refusing food for one day, a spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service said on Tuesday.

“In the framework of (Palestinian) Prisoners’ Day, around 2,300 security prisoners said they were refusing their daily meals, and around 1,200 prisoners said they were starting a hunger strike,” IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP.

According to a report, There are currently 4,699 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, the vast majority of whom are serving time for security offences.

While most are facing trial or have been convicted of security offences, 319 are being held under a widely used procedure dating back to British rule, known as “administrative detention” which allows suspects to be detained indefinitely without charge.

The figures were compiled by the ministry on March 23 and adjusted by AFP to take into account the release of hunger-striking administrative detainee Hanaa Shalabi on April 1.

Another former hunger-striker, Khader Adnan, was due to be release on Tuesday after a four-month term in administrative detention.

Administrative detention orders are initially for up to six months, but can be repeatedly extended by further six-month periods.

The ministry data showed that 3,864 of the prisoners are from the occupied West Bank, 475 are from Gaza and 360 are Arab Israelis or from Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

They are being held at 17 facilities across Israel and the West Bank. Included in the total number are 185 minors.

Figures published by Israeli rights group B’Tselem, which it says were supplied by the Israel Prisons Service, show the same total of Palestinians in custody but gives a figure of 203 minors, of whom 31 are under 16.

The Palestinian data said that 534 prisoners were serving life sentences.

It said that among detainees were 27 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), or parliament.

The number of Palestinians in Israeli jails fell late last year after the release of 1,027 prisoners under the terms of a swap deal with Gaza’s Hamas rulers for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Since the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel occupied east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, around 700,000 Palestinians have been detained by the military — the equivalent of around 20 percent of the total population, Palestinian figures show.