Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails have started an open-ended mass hunger strike on Sunday to protest the deteriorating conditions of these jails.
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Around 30 inmates started the strikes with 1,400 more scheduled to join them in the coming weeks. Both prisoners and administrative detainees (people held without charges) are striking jointly.
Palestinian Prisoners and Former Prisoners’ Affairs Committee said that until Israel responds to the demands of the prisoners, the strike will go on with another group starting joining the strikes on April 17 and another one on May 1.
The prisoners will reject food and water in protest against the installation of mobile phone reception blocking equipment in Ramon prison in the southern Negev region.
The prisoners said in a statement that the equipment is a health hazard and may cause cancer.
This came just two days before Israel´s upcoming election in which the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term in office.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the equipment was necessary to stop ´terror activities´, accusations that have been denied by the Palestinian prisoners.
For them, without mobile phone services, they will not be able to communicate with their family members, many of whom are unable to visit them in the jails.
Israel Prisons Service (IPS) said Sunday that it would respond "forcefully and with determination" to make sure that the jamming equipment would not be removed. Any negotiation regarding the same would resume after Tuesday’s election.
The prisoners are also demanding a lift of the ban on family visits from prisoners from the besieged Gaza Strip; expanding television services; and stocking of additional goods in the prison canteens.
Israeli forces punish prisoners on hunger strikes by putting them in solitary confinement or transferring them from one prison to another.
Israel currently holds 5,450 Palestinian prisoners including 200 administrative detainees, according to Jerusalem-based Palestinian prisoners' rights group, Addameer.
Most of the prisoners are held in jails in Israel, breaking Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which says that an occupying power should hold prisoners from occupied territories within that region.
The tension between prisoners and authorities are higher since Erdan announced in January to “worsen” the conditions for Palestinian prisoners by rationing water supplies, reducing the number of family visits. He also plans to remove cooking rights and limit access to television.