Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan vowed on Tuesday not to negotiate with hundreds of Palestinian detainees on the second day of a hunger strike led by popular leader Marwan Barghouti.
More than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons launched the hunger strike on Monday, issuing a list of demands ranging from better medical services to access to telephones.
Issa Qaraqe, head of prisoner affairs for the Palestinian Authority, said on Monday that around 1,300 prisoners were on hunger strike and the number could rise.The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club had put the number at 1,500.
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. Erdan vowed that Israeli authorities would not negotiate with the prisoners and said Barghouti had been moved to another prison and placed in solitary confinement.
“They are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting what they deserve and we have no reason to negotiate with them,” Erdan told army radio.
He said Barghouti had been placed in solitary confinement because calling for the hunger strike was against prison rules. Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Of those, 62 are women and 300 are minors.
Some 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge. Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a large scale.
Barghouti’s call for the strike has given it added credibility, with the 57-year-old serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada or uprising.
He was convicted of attacks that killed five people. He is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency. “Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation,” Barghouti wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.
“In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.”