Palestinians stop work in support of prison hunger strikers
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Palestinians stop work in support of prison hunger strikers

Shops close throughout West Bank, East Jerusalem in general strike, which coincides with Trump visit

File: Israeli soldiers in a West Bank village, on May 22, 2017, in Dayr Sharaf, west of Nablus. (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
File: Israeli soldiers in a West Bank village, on May 22, 2017, in Dayr Sharaf, west of Nablus. (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Palestinians were on Monday observing a general strike in solidarity with security prisoners refusing food in Israeli jails for more than a month over their conditions.

The strike paralyzed East Jerusalem as well as West Bank cities and suburbs, with shops closed and both public and private sector employees refusing to work, AFP correspondents said.

There were also sporadic clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in the West Bank.

The labor action came in response to a call from the Palestinian striking prisoners’ support committee, a grassroots group.

The committee appealed for protests against Israeli military forces in the West Bank in support of the prisoners, who are behind bars for security offenses against Israel and its citizens.

It coincided with the arrival of US President Donald Trump in Israel ahead of a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

Palestinian police forces were deployed at contact points in the city of El-Bireh close to the Beit El settlement, an AFP correspondent said.

Protesters hold Palestinian flags in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who are on a hunger strike in Israeli jails, near the West Bank city of Nablus, May 16, 2017. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Protesters hold Palestinian flags in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who are on a hunger strike in Israeli jails, near the West Bank city of Nablus, May 16, 2017. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Israel announced a series of measures to support the Palestinian economy and ease transportation woes ahead of Trump’s visit, which were welcomed by the US administration as “encouraging.”

Monday’s strike was held in solidarity with about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have been fasting since April 17 over demands for improved conditions.

Hamas and other Palestinian factions also issued an ultimatum to Israel this week that if the prisoners’ demands for improved conditions are not met by Saturday then another 800 prisoners will join those who are already fasting.

Palestinians say some 1,600 inmates have kept up the fast since mid April, but Israel says the number has dropped to around 850. About 20 inmates were transferred to a medical wing over their deteriorating conditions Sunday, according to Channel 2 news.

Some strikers, who have been subsisting on salt water, have begun refusing to drink that as well in recent days, according to supporters.

A series of protests in support of them have been held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with two Palestinians killed and dozens of others wounded in clashes between rioters and Israeli security forces or civilians.

The prisoners, jailed for offenses linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seek better conditions, including 20 TV channels, unrestricted books and magazines, air conditioning, a greater selection of items available for purchase in the canteen, family visits, the restarting of open university studies, public telephone use, and annual medical checks for prisoners.

Israel says prisoners’ conditions meet all international standards. Reported efforts to negotiate an end to the strike have failed thus far.

The hunger strike was being led by Marwan Barghouti — a widely supported Palestinian politician who is serving five life terms for orchestrating deadly terror attacks during the Second Intifada.

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