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UN 'closely watching' Palestinian hunger strike following clashes

Clashes erupted between Palestinian supporters of the hunger strikers and Israeli forces [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2017

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The UN monitoring a hunger strike campaign launched by more than a thousand Palestinians in Israeli prisons, officials said on Tuesday.

The United Nations said it was closely following a hunger strike launched by more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons on Tuesday, urging restraint following clashes with the strikers' supporters in the West Bank.

"We are obviously aware of the situation and following the developments closely," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

The Palestinian detainees led by popular leader Marwan Barghouti launched the hunger strike on Monday to press for demands such as better medical services and access to telephones.

Dujarric noted that clashes have taken place in the occupied West Bank in support of the prisoners and called for "restraint" by both parties.

Dujarric said that "as a matter of principle, wherever it may be, we always call for prisoners to be treated in a humane way".

Despite this, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan vowed not to negotiate with the protesting detainees after placing the leader of the hunger strike, Marwan Barghouti, in solitary confinement after he penned a column for the New York Times.

"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.

Barghouti, who led a group of more than 1,600 Palestinian hunger strikers in prison, was secluded from fellow inmates at the Jalameh prison in northern Israel along with Karim Younis, Maher Yunis and Mahmoud Abu Sorour just hours after the damning opinion piece was published.

"Decades of experience have proved that Israel's inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break," Barghouti wrote in the column.

"By inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation," Barghouti added.

"In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it."

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes, and of those, 62 are women and 300 are minors. 

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

The UN Security Council will discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during an open debate on Thursday.


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