Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “outright rejects” Israeli demands to halt payments to prisoners held by Israel, Palestinian Authority Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe said Saturday, according to Channel 2 news.
As a hunger strike by hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners reached its thirteenth day, Qaraqe called on the international community to intervene, saying “the lives of some of the prisoners are in danger.”
Qaraqe said Abbas was fully supportive of the strikers and their demands, which range from improved medical care to greater access to telephone calls. He warned that more prisoners could join the strike if demands were not met.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the salaries paid to imprisoned terrorists by the PA constitute a major obstacle to peace.
Palestinian officials say some 1,500 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike that began on April 17, with detainees ingesting only water and salt. Israeli authorities have put the number at around 1,200.
Police on Saturday dispersed dozens of protesters in Jerusalem’s Old City who demonstrated in support of the striking prisoners. The protesters held pictures of prisoners and attempted to march to the Damascus Gate, but were blocked by Israeli authorities.
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of terror offenses and crimes. Around 500 are being held under Israel’s system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.
Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale.
The hunger strike is being led by Palestinian leader and prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist serving five life sentences over his role in deadly attacks during the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, of 2000 to 2005.
A series of demonstrations have been held in the West Bank in support of the prisoners, occasionally resulting in clashes with Israeli forces.
Barghouti is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.