Israel has detained one million Palestinians since its creation

A number of Palestinians Monday suffered from tear gas inhalation after Israeli forces cracked down on a march in Bethlehem in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, according to local sources.

The open-ended strike has been launched to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day amid calls by detainees for the resumption of prison visits, better medical care and better treatment of female prisoners.

The United Nations on Tuesday said it was following closely a hunger strike by more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons and urged restraint following clashes with the strikers' supporters in the West Bank.

Opinion polls suggest Barghouti is the top contender to succeed Mr Abbas as president.

One of the largest demonstration took place in Ramallah, where thousands gathered in Yasser Arafat Square, raising flags emblazoned with the face of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Palestinian flags.

The prison service has begun separating hunger strikers into separate cell blocks. The initial description of him at the end of the op-ed reads, "Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian".

The strike also comes at a hard time for the Palestinian Authority, whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is aging and unpopular. They are murderers. They are terrorists and we never lose our clarity because we are on the right side.

He said Barghouti had been placed in solitary confinement because calling for the hunger strike was against prison rules.

Barghouti and another strike leader, Karim Younis, were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) on Monday in an apparent attempt to curb the protest.

It was unclear whether the strike could be sustained to the point of forcing concessions from the Israeli authorities, but experts said it nonetheless had the potential to stir passions among Palestinians.

The striking prisoners are demanding access to phones, extended visiting rights and better medical service. Palestinians marked Monday as Prisoners' Day.

He said the strike was part of an internal Palestinian struggle for power.

"The Israeli government will be responsible for any and all of the consequences of this hunger strike - if a prisoner dies, or becomes extremely ill, they are the ones that will have to handle the outcome".

Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed three years ago.

  • Leroy Wright