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Palestinians prisoners launch mass hunger strike

An activist says more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have launched an open-ended hunger strike to demand better conditions in Israeli prisons, including more contact with relatives, and an end to Israel's practice of detentions without trial.

A prominent leader in the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Marwan Barghouti, had called for the strike. "There will be an update later."Barghouti is now serving five life sentences for his role in murderous terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s".

Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel - equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory's male population.

Israeli prison service said that 1,187 inmates had launched a hunger strike on Palestinian Prisoners' Day.

According to figures provided in February by the Prison Service, at least 6,820 Palestinians, including hundreds of minors, are incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Many are held under the Administrative Detention provision, which allows suspects to be held without charge for six months, BBC reported.

Israel Border Police officers have arrested four Palestinians who threw stones at them in Beitunia near Ofer Prison.

Mr Erdan said a field hospital would be erected next to one prison - an apparent move to preempt transfers to civilian medical facilities, which could draw wider media attention. Prisoners have so far declared strikes in eight different Israeli prisons.

Under Israeli relevant regulations, prisoners are entitled to family visits once every two weeks.

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Hamas recently suggested it would support a smaller Palestine state, without specifying if this would be a stepping stone to Israel's destruction. Issa Qaraqe, head of prisoners affairs for the Palestinian Authority, said that the number of participants is "around 1,300."Assaf Librati, an Israeli prison spokesperson put the number at 700".

The Israel Prison Service threatened to punish the hunger strikers. The global community, it insisted, should bear its "legal and ethical responsibilities" to oblige Israel to respect worldwide law by dealing with the Palestinians it is holding as prisoners of war.

Israeli authorities argue administrative detention protects at-risk informants and is needed for the country's security.

He added that the number is expected to increase in the coming days.

For Palestinians, the prisons have become a stark symbol of Israel's occupation.

"After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike", Barghouti wrote.

Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed three years ago.

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