Some 800 Palestinians serving time in Israeli jails were on Tuesday refusing food in solidarity with four fellow inmates who have been on long-term hunger strike, officials said.
According to the Ramallah-based Prisoners’ Club, 800 prisoners in three prisons were taking part in the one-day strike, among them members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Sivan Weizman, a spokesperson for the Israel Prisons Service confirmed hundreds of prisoners had refused their breakfast but said it was 500 prisoners in two facilities.
“Five hundred Palestinians in the Ramon and Eshel prisons refused to eat breakfast this morning and have said they will refuse to eat lunch and dinner,” she told AFP.
The one-day strike was the latest show of solidarity with four detainees who are on long-term hunger strike and whose state of health has sparked mass protests across the West Bank as well as statements of concern from rights groups and Western governments.
The four, Samer Issawi, 33, Tareq Qaadan, 40, Jafar Ezzedine, 41, and Ayman Sharawna, 36, have been refusing food for between two and seven months.
According to Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Egypt is actively negotiating with Israel to address the issue of the Palestinian hunger strikers, said Khaled Meshaal, chief of Hamas politburo, on Monday.
During a phone call with family of Sharawna’s family, Meshaal promised a resolution soon. The family said Meshaal told them that a quick resolution for the hunger strikers will be reached within days.
An Israeli court in Jerusalem was on Tuesday to hold a hearing on Issawi’s case, his lawyer said.
Prisoner rights group Addameer says Qaadan and Ezzedine were arrested on November 22 and handed a three-month administrative detention order, meaning they can be held without charge.
Israeli authorities routinely employ administrative detention, under which Palestinians are held for extended periods of time without indictment or trial.
Both began refusing food on November 28 in protest and their detention orders are due to expire or be renewed Friday.
Issawi, 33, and Sharawna, 36, were long-term security prisoners released by Israel under a prisoner swap deal in October 2011, but both were rearrested last year following allegations they violated the terms of the agreement.
Israel has ordered that they serve out the remainder of their original sentences, prompting Sharawna to start refusing food on July 1 followed by Issawi who stopped eating on August 1.
Statistics published by Israeli rights group B’Tselem show by the end of 2012, 4,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails.