Thousands of Palestinians took the streets of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to mark Prisoners Day on Monday and express their solidarity with hunger striking prisoners in Israeli prisons.
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.
“We all need to prove to our living martyrs (prisoners) that their suffering will not be in vane,” Palestinian Authority Ramallah Governor Lailah Ghanam told demonstrators in Ramallah. “We salute the prisoners.”
At a another demonstration in Bethlehem, clashes broke out between Israeli soldiers and demonstrators near the security barrier.
Prisoners Day comes at the same time that Palestinian prisoners are opening a hunger strike to protest conditions in Israeli prisons.
1,100 Palestinian security prisoners have declared they will carry out a hunger strike, according to the Israel Prison Service. Palestinian Prisoner Club Chairman Qadura Fares said 1,500 are undertaking hunger strikes.
The prisoners, led by Barghouti, are calling on Israel to respond affirmatively to a list of demands, some of which include: increased family visitation rights, improved medical services, ending administrative detention and greater access to educational materials.
Barghouti, who was convicted of murdering Israelis during the second intifada, is seen as a major contender to succeed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Israel Prison Service said on Monday that it is undertaking “significant measures” against hunger strikers including moving some of them into separate cells.
Barghouti wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times on Monday that Israeli prison authorities are violating prisoners’ rights, which should be guaranteed by international law.
“Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence,” Barghouti wrote.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon rejected Barghouti’s accusation, posting on Twitter that prisoners “are treated properly under international law.”
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said “Barghouti's strike is motivated by internal Palestinian political motives and therefore includes unreasonable demands regarding prisoner conditions.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community “to intervene to save the lives of Palestinian prisoners who have opened hunger strikes…in light of the Israel government’s narrow-mindedness and refusal to accept the prisoners’ just and humanitarian demands.”
The Israel Prison Service said that it does not negotiate with prisoners.
There are approximately 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, serving a variety of sentences.