Palestinian hunger strikers' leader in solitary confinement

As far as the Israeli government is concerned, there will be no talks with the approximately 1,187 Palestinian prisoners engaged in a hunger strike since Monday.

Speaking on Israel's Army Radio, Barghouti's lawyer, Elias Sabbagh, said the plan to launch a hunger strike had been discussed among prisoners for more than a year.

Israeli Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, said he will not hold any dialogue with the Palestinian prisoners regarding their demands.

The goal of the strike is ostensibly to protest prison conditions, to receive more visitation time with family and to end detention without trial, but a number of observers see the effort as part of a Barghouti run for PA leadership.

The strike coincides with Palestinian Prisoners Day, which is marked on April 17 every year.

There are approximately 6,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian figures.

The punitive move also came after Barghout published an opinion piece in The New York Times to explain the hunger strike.

Prisoners are demanding more contact with relatives, better access to medical treatment and an end to the Israeli practice of detention without trial.

Hana Herbst, a spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service, said in a statement that striking prisoners were being transfered to separate cell blocks.

Polls suggest that Barghouti, 57, is the most popular choice to replace Abbas, 82, even though he is serving five life sentences after he was convicted of being a leader of the second intifada and of directing attacks that led to the killings of Israelis.

A spokesman for the Israel Prisons Service said around 1,100 prisoners started the hunger strike and roughly the same number were believed to be continuing on Tuesday.

In the West Bank and Gaza on Monday thousands of people took part in solidarity marches to mark Prisoners' Day in the Palestinian areas.

At the main Israeli checkpoint on the road from Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, to Jerusalem, Palestinian motorists drive by a giant mural on Israel's West Bank separation wall.

More hardline still was the reaction by Israel's intelligence and transportation minister, who tweeted that Barghouti should have been executed after his conviction for murder in 2004 in an Israeli court.

Among them are detained leaders, legislator Marwan Barghouthi, and Karim Younis, who were transferred from solitary confinement in Hadarim to solitary confinement in al-Jalama prison.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated in response to the New York Times publication: "The Palestinian prisoners are not political prisoners". Erdan insisted that there was no need to negotiate at all about their prison system's actions, and that they had no reason to improve conditions for the detainees.

  • Leroy Wright