Number of Palestinian prisoners quitting hunger strike hits 186
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Number of Palestinian prisoners quitting hunger strike hits 186

Over 1,000 still believed to be on strike, with several said hospitalized, as Marwan Barghouti-led protest enters seventh day

Palestinian protesters wave flags in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, demonstrating in solidarity with a hunger strike by Palestinian security prisoners on April 17, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Palestinian protesters wave flags in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, demonstrating in solidarity with a hunger strike by Palestinian security prisoners on April 17, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

At least 86 Palestinian prisoners said Saturday they were ending their hunger strike, the Israel Prisons Service said.

They joined some 100 other prisoners who ended their strike on Friday, according to the Israeli authorities.

An estimated 1,200 Palestinian prisoners, mostly from the Fatah organization and including many convicted terrorists, are on an open-ended hunger strike announced last week in a bid to improve their conditions in Israeli prisons.

The strike is led by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences after he was convicted in a civil court in 2004 of initiating and planning multiple terror attacks against Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada.

Among the demands made by Barghouti and fellow 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 last year due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, extending the length of each visit from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells, and the installation of public telephones in security wings.

The total number of striking prisoners may still be rising, despite the announcements Friday and Saturday of those who were abandoning the strike. Some 1,100 participated in the strike when it launched on Monday, and hundreds are said to have joined it in the days since, according to Palestinian sources.

Most of those who ended their strike on Saturday, 84 of the 86, are imprisoned at the Gilboa Prison in the north, the Ynet news site reported.

According to the IPS, a Palestinian man who had a preexisting heart condition was transferred to an Israeli hospital for treatment on Friday. The Palestinian news site Ma’an named the prisoner as Said Musallam and reported that several other hunger-strikers have also been hospitalized.

Barghouti began to call for a strike after talks between prisoners’ representatives and the Israel Prisons Service on improving jail conditions reached an impasse. Those talks began more than a year and a half ago.

A man holds a photo of convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti calling for his release during a rally supporting those detained in Israeli jails after hundreds of prisoners launched a hunger strike, in the West Bank town of Hebron on April 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)
A man holds a photo of convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti calling for his release during a rally supporting those detained in Israeli jails, in the West Bank town of Hebron on April 17, 2017. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

Palestinian Prisoners Club head Qadura Fares told AFP on Thursday that Israel would allow all the strikers, including Barghouti, access to lawyers, in a reversal of its previous position.

Access to lawyers had been prevented following the start of the strike, Palestinian officials said, while Barghouti was moved to solitary confinement, apparently as punishment for submitting an oped to the New York Times without first obtaining the Prisons Service’s permission, a violation of prison rules.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of terror offenses and crimes. Around 500 are held under administrative detention, a controversial counter-terror practice that allows for extended imprisonment without charge.

Palestinian prisoners have previously mounted hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale.

Avi Issacharoff and Agencies contributed to this report.

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