Convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti has reportedly stopped drinking water in an attempt to escalate a month-long hunger strike being led by Palestinian security prisoners.
A report from the Palestinian Ma’an news agency on Tuesday quoted Barghouti’s lawyer Khader Shkirat as saying that Barghouti’s decision to forgo water would mark “a new turning point in the ongoing open-ended hunger strike.”
Israel is adopting “a criminal stance regarding the just demands of prisoners,” he said, adding that Barghouti refuses to negotiate or compromise over his demands.
On Monday, Israel stepped up its bid to undermine Barghouti by publishing a letter listing what it said were his demands.
Among the demands Barghouti made are 20 channels of television, 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.
Shkirat also accused the Jewish state of leading the prisoners down a “tragic and disastrous road” and inflicting a “slow death” upon them by refusing to meet their demands.
According to Palestinian officials, 1,500 inmates have been refusing food since the strike began on April 17 to protest prison conditions. However, Israeli officials say only some 800 continue to refuse food and have dismissed the hunger strike as an attempt by Barghouti to show Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he still wields influence on the Palestinian street.
Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in deadly terror attacks on Israelis. He is seen as a possible successor to Abbas.
On Tuesday, a Palestinian media committee set up to cover the hunger strike said that a number of the prisoners have “entered a critical health condition,” which includes vomiting, loss of vision, fainting and a weight loss of some 20 kilograms (44 pounds).
“In spite of this, (hunger strikers) sent many messages confirming that they will continue the strike until their demands are achieved,” Ma’an quoted a statement from the Palestinian media as saying.
On Sunday, Barghouti was allowed to meet with his lawyer Shkirat for three hours, for the first time since initiating the hunger strike on April 17.
The attorney said his client denied the authenticity of a video released by the Israel Prisons Service last week purportedly showing Barghouti secretly eating a candy bar in his cell.
Israeli Prison Service spokesman Asaf Librati said the video of Barghouti eating a candy bar was authentic and was taken in his current cell.
He said that Barghouti faced some “punitive measures” for breaking prison rules by staging the hunger strike, but that his conditions and those of the other prisoners met international standards.
Librati pointed to the visits by the Red Cross and lawyer as proof that “we have nothing to hide concerning his treatment here.” He accused Barghouti’s lawyer of stating “incorrect facts.”
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.