The Israeli Prison Service released a video on Sunday purportedly showing Palestinian inmate and hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti secretly eating a candy bar and other food in the bathroom of his cell on Friday.
Barghouti, a convicted terrorist serving five life sentences, has been leading a large-scale hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners to push for more privileges, ratcheting up tensions with Israel and on the Palestinian street. The strike entered its 21st day Sunday.
The video shows two separate occasions — on April 27 and May 5 — in which Barghouti could be seen apparently unwrapping food in his prison cell and eating it in his toilet stall.
When asked for comment, a prison service spokesperson said: “The video speaks for itself.”
The Times of Israel could not independently verify the dates the footage was recorded. Throughout the segment from April 27, a timestamp could be seen on the bottom corner. However, there is only a timestamp at the beginning of the May 5 segment.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan decried Barghouti as a “murderer and a hypocrite” for eating while leading a hunger strike.
“As I said from the very beginning, this hunger strike was never about the conditions of the convicted terrorists, which meet international standards. It is about advancing Marwan Barghouti political ambitions to replace Abu Mazen,” Erdan said, using Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s nickname.
“Barghouti is a murderer and hypocrite who urged his fellow prisoners to strike and suffer while he ate behind their back. Just like he lied to the world when he wrote in the New York Times that he decided to strike in order to protest ill-treatment, he lied to the Palestinian public when he claimed to be striking. Israel will not give in to extortion and pressure from terrorists,” Erdan said.
In each of the clips, the prisoner can be seen unwrapping food from a piece of paper, sitting down on the toilet and eating, before he stands up and brushes himself off.
The footage from April 27 is less clear, as Barghouti closes the door to the stall, but in the segment from Friday afternoon, he can be seen breaking off pieces of a Tortit candy bar and moving them toward his mouth.
Barghouti’s face cannot be clearly seen in the footage, as he looks down and away from the camera.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said Barghouti’s actions proved that the hunger strike is “a media stunt, which seeks to glorify terrorists with blood on their hands.”
There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
Earlier in the day, Qadoura Fares, head of the advocacy group, said the hunger strikers had begun taking vitamin supplements a week ago. He said guards stepped up punishment, seizing all personal items and leaving prisoners “with nothing except their beds.”
According to Palestinian officials, 1,500 inmates have refused food since last month to protest conditions. However, Israeli officials say only some 800 continue to refuse food and have threatened to bring in foreign doctors to force feed the prisoners.
Barghouti is a popular figure in Palestinian society and is seen as a possible successor to Abbas. Some analysts in Israel have pointed to the hunger strike as a bid by Barghouti to show Abbas he still wields political power.