Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday called on the international community to “intervene quickly to save the lives” of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who earlier in the day launched a mass hunger strike to protest their conditions of imprisonment.
At a rally marking the annual Palestinian “Prisoner’s Day” in the West Bank, Abbas sent his support to the hunger-strikers and said Israel was being “stubborn” for refusing to “accept the just humanitarian demands of the prisoners.”
According to the Ynet news website, Abbas made no mention of the strike’s initiator and leader Marwan Barghouti.
Some Palestinian officials have attribute Barghouti’s call for the strike to an attempt to send a message to the Fatah leadership and Abbas, who excluded Barghouti’s people from a recent Central Committee meeting and didn’t give Barghouti the position of deputy chair to the PA.
Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.
Elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Monday, thousands of Palestinians participated in rallies showing solidarity with the prisoners.
Palestinian officials said 1,300 Palestinians launched the mass hunger strike to protest the conditions in Israeli prisons. Israeli prison service spokesman Assaf Librati put the number at around 1,100.
Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in murderous terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. He is a popular figure, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.