A leader of a sweeping hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails was put in solitary confinement on Monday as Israel was seeking to break the protest, officials and local media said.
Assaf Librati, a spokesman for the Israel Prison Service, said the hunger strikers will be “disciplined.”He also said Marwan Barghouti, a high-profile Fatah-linked prisoner, was transferred from the Hadarim Prison in central Israel to the Kishon detention center in the north.Barghouti is a leader of one of the largest protests in Israeli jails in recent years, where some 1,200 detainees in several prisons announced on Monday an indefinite hunger strike until Israel accepts their demands to improve incarceration conditions.Dozens of other prisoners the Prison Service considers leaders of the protest were also transferred to other jails, according to local media.
Librati confirmed that the Prison Service has started taking disciplinary measures against the strikers, and some prisoners have been transferred to separate wings.”It is to be emphasized that the (prison service) does not negotiate with prisoners,” he said.Earlier on Monday, Barghouti, who is seen by some as a potential successor to President Mahmoud Abbas, published an Op-Ed article in the New York Times.Under the title “Why we are on hunger strike in Israel’s prisons,” Barghouti wrote that 50 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has proved that Israel has been using an “inhumane system” incarceration to break “the spirit of prisoners…by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities and using humiliating measures to compel subjugation.”
“As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers,” he wrote. “Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions.”He promised that the new hunger strike “will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.”
The article riled the prisons authority. The Hebrew-language Ynet news website reported that the Prison Service launched an investigation to find out how Barghouti “smuggled” the article outside the jail.The prisoners’ 13-item demands list includes visitation rights, installing public telephones and air conditioning systems, allowing prisoners to keep books, newspapers, clothes and food as well as stopping administrative detentions, an indefinable incarceration without charges for renewable periods of six months, and solitary containment.Under Israeli relevant regulations, prisoners are entitled to family visits once every two weeks. However, Palestinians from the West Bank need an entry permit into Israel and Israeli authorities often deny such permits.
Even when a permit is granted, the families are required to wait in a yard outside the prison, sometimes for hours without sits or shades.The prisoners also demand periodic medical checkups and to increase the number of visits by the International Red Cross.According to figures provided in February by Israel’s Prison Service, at least 6,820 Palestinians, including hundreds of minors, are incarcerated in Israeli prisons.Most of them are jailed for participating in the struggle against the Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza, lands that Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East War and where the Palestinians wish to establish their future state.