Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday that he hopes that Palestinian prisoners currently on a hunger-strike in Israeli jails are aware that their most public figure has broken the protest.Following the publication of security footage Sunday allegedly showing the leader of the demonstration, Marwan Barghouti, secretly eating, Erdan told Army Radio during an interview that Palestinian prisoners were being "cynically exploited."
"I hope that the prisoners will understand that the leader of the (hunger) strike is cynically exploiting them while not participating on his own."Erdan also hinted that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) may have set a trap for Barghouti in order to entice him to break his protest, but refused to elaborate any further. The video released by the IPS on Sunday appears to show two instances – once on April 27 and the other on May 5 – in which Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences on terrorism convictions, is seen walking to the bathroom in his cell with items in his hands. The IPS said in the April 27 incident he ate two cookies. The video shows Barghouti entering the bathroom while holding some materials, however, the closed door obscures his actions.In the recording of May 5, the bathroom door is seen ajar and Barghouti appears to be chewing. The IPS said he was eating a Tortit brand chocolate bar and a package of salt.The video was taken at the Kishon Prison in northern Israel, where Barghouti was transferred to solitary confinement after the hunger strike began.A spokeswoman for the IPS would not comment on how Barghouti obtained the food, while Hebrew media cited unnamed sources that claimed the food was laid as bait for the hunger-striking prisoner.PLO Commission for Prisoners chairman Essa Qaraqaa on Sunday called the video an “Israeli game” in an attempt to pressure Barghouti. “On April 17, 1,500 Palestinian security prisoners started a hunger strike to pressure the Israel Prison Service to end solitary confinement and administrative detentions, improve amenities and increase visitation rights. According to the IPS, 800 prisoners remain on hunger strike, while Palestinian figures are higher.Despite being imprisoned, Barghouti, who was sentenced to five life sentences in 2004, is seen as a major contender to succeed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.In the past year, several Palestinian administrative detainees who were being held without charges carried out hunger strikes before reaching deals with prison authorities to secure their release.
Imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti eats in prison (credit: ISRAEL PRISON SERVICE)