Palestinians clash with security forces outside West Bank prison
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Palestinians clash with security forces outside West Bank prison

As supporters of hunger strikers demonstrate in solidarity, right-wing activists hold barbecue to taunt prisoners

Palestinian protesters wave Palestinian flags and portraits of Marwan Barghouti in front of Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian protesters wave Palestinian flags and portraits of Marwan Barghouti in front of Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

Several dozen Palestinian protesters clashed with security forces Thursday outside a prison where inmates are on a hunger strike, while a group of right-wing Israelis nearby taunted prisoners by barbecuing.

Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have joined a hunger strike against conditions that began Monday.

The hunger strike has been led by popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for murder over his role orchestrating terror attacks against Israeli citizens during the Second Intifada.

Security forces fired tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets at the crowd of Palestinians who threw stones and protested in support of the detainees outside Israel’s Ofer Prison north of Jerusalem in the West Bank.

It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured in the clashes.

Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes in front of Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes in front of Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Prisoners Club head Qadura Fares told AFP at the protest 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, with Barghouti moved to solitary confinement.

The Israel Prisons Service said it was acting under its rules, without elaborating further.

A small number of Israelis held a barbecue nearby on the opposite side of a checkpoint, saying they hoped the smell would make prisoners’ abstention harder.

Around a dozen Israelis wearing shirts of the far-right National Union party grilled chicken and other kinds of meat, with a number of soldiers joining them to eat.

“At this moment (the hunger strikers) will smell the food’s scent and maybe later in the evening they will see it on television,” event organizer Ofer Sofer told AFP in front of two barbecue pits.

“It is a bunch of terrorists who are threatening us with hunger strike. We are happy that they are on strike. Let them have this strike as long as they want.”

They called for tough punishments for the protesting Palestinians, including worsening their conditions.

Israeli right-wing activists barbecue outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Israeli right-wing activists barbecue outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offenses and alleged crimes. Around 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.

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

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