Three-day hunger strike which could be extended

Thousands of Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails on Wednesday launched a hunger strike, said Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqa.

“I can confirm that all the prisoners in Israeli prisons have begun a three-day hunger strike, which could be increased, as a kind of warning to the Israeli administration,” Mr. Issa Qaraqa told reporters in Ramallah.

He Mr. Qaraqa said the strike was a protest against the policy of solitary confinement, and was called in solidarity with a group of prisoners from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“Around 200 prisoners from the PFLP and some others began an open-ended hunger strike yesterday [Tuesday] to protest the continued solitary confinement of their secretary general Ahmed Saadat for the last four years,” said Mr. Qaraqa.

The strike was then extended across all prisons and also what Mr. Qaraqa called a “growing tide” of punitive measures against detainees. “There are prisoners who have been in solitary confinement for 10 years,” he said.

Harsh penalties

“The prison authorities have imposed harsh penalties and unprecedented measures, pushing the prisoners into a state of rebellion against all the rules in force inside the occupation prisons.”

According to figures released by Israeli rights group B'tselem in April, there are 5,380 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, 217 of whom were under 18.

Outcry of new homes

Israel on Wednesday rejected international outcry over its plans to build 1,100 new homes in Gilo in annexed east Jerusalem, insisting the neighbourhood was “not a settlement”. “Gilo is not a settlement, nor a settlement outpost. It is a neighbourhood which constitutes an integral part of the centre of Jerusalem,” a senior Israeli official told AFP.

The move, which was signed off by Israel's Interior Ministry on Tuesday, drew a sharply worded response from the Palestinians, and a chorus of condemnation from Europe, the United States and China.

Gilo lies in mostly Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.

Israel considers both halves of the Holy City its “eternal, indivisible” capital, and does not view construction in the east to be settlement activity.

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