Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike leader sent to solitary

Starting Sunday, numerous more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons declared that they were on a hunger strike, which prompted demonstrations of support Monday in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority's de facto capital, and elsewhere in the West Bank.

The agitation is being led by Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving several life terms for five murders, the news agency said.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are now detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes, and for many Palestinians the prisons themselves have become a stark symbol of Israel's occupation.

Some 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge, prompting prisoners to launch repeated hunger strikes over the years - but rarely on such a large scale.

Qaddura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club which tracks the well-being of Palestinians in Israeli jails, said Barghouti had been placed in solitary confinement, but Librati did not confirm that.

The New York Times apologized Monday for publishing an opinion piece by convicted terror leader Marwan Barghouti demonizing Israel and questioning its right to exist. One cage held two Palestinians in Israeli prison uniform.

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official who participated in the march, reiterated Hamas' demand for a prisoner swap with Israel.

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Prison officials have been ordered by the nation's government to instill "punitive measures", as it were, in order to pressure the Palestinians to give up their strike.

In recent years, previous Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli custody have come close to death and had to be hospitalized.

Demonstrators had set up a rally in the West Bank to voice their displeasure at the poor conditions in which imprisoned Palestinians are kept in on Monday (17 April) before violent scenes started taking place.

It was unclear whether the strike could be sustained to the point of forcing concessions from the Israeli authorities, but experts said it nonetheless had the potential to stir passions among Palestinians.

Israeli authorities have arrested about one million Palestinians since 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

Rimah Shawkat al-Khuffash, whose brother Haitham is also among the hunger strikers, urged all Palestinian citizens to support them, adding that she was also refusing to eat in solidarity with the prisoners. Barghouti was also convicted of masterminding a suicide bombing attack that backfired and only killed the bombers.

Marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day, the organisation said that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails "suffer violations classified as war crimes that need an International Criminal Court ruling".

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