Barghouti refusing medical treatment on eighth day of hunger strike
ABBAS MOMANI (AFP)
Palestinian media reported on Monday that the condition of Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader leading a hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, was starting to deteriorate after he refused medical treatment.
The hunger strike began on April 17 and those taking part have been ingesting only water and salt.
Barghouti, 57 and serving five life sentences for murder charges over his role in the second Palestinian intifada (uprising), is refusing medical treatment, according to Amani Sarahneh of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club NGO.
According to an Israeli Prisons Service spokesman said that "no decline in [Barghouti's] health condition has been observed".
"If Barghouti feels bad, all he has to do is eat," the spokesman told AFP.
Hunger striking prisoners from various Palestinian political factions -- including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and some members of the Islamist group Hamas -- have made demands including the installation of public telephones and televisions in prison wards, the resumption of academic studies and bi-monthly visitations for inmates, and re-location to facilities in the Palestinian territories.
They are also calling for an end to solitary confinement and Israel's controversial administrative detention policy, which allows renewable six-month periods of detention without trial. In an op-ed for the New York Times at the start of the protest, Barghouti accused Israel of "inhumane" treatment of prisoners and "judicial apartheid."
It was reported on Saturday that 186 prisoners had abandoned the strike, which initially included some 1,100 prisoners.
According to the NGO, authorities at the Jalame prison, where Barghouti was transferred and placed in solitary confinement after the strike began, have pressured him to accept medical treatment and also urged other prisoners to try to convince him.
Speaking to i24NEWS on Friday, his wife Fadwa Barghouti said that the demands of the hunger-strikers are all humanitarian ones, but Israeli lawmakers are making it political.
“We want to tell the Israeli people that this strike is a humanitarian one, but your politicians and leaders wanted to make it a political battle to use for their raging election campaigns,” she told i24NEWS, implying that the issue was being used to distract from political corruption among Israeli politicians "by using the prisoners' pain for their benefit in the coming election campaigns..."
"And at the same time, some Israeli leaders accused of corruption are trying to distract the Palestinians, in the issue of prisoners, trying to make the Israeli citizen look at the issue as a danger to them, and by that they are covering their own mistakes.”
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offenses and alleged crimes.
Around 500 are being held under Israel's system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.
Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale.
Barghouti is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.
While many Palestinians view him as a hero, Israelis point to the bloody suicide attacks of the second intifada of 2000-2005 and his role in the uprising.
He was convicted of attacks that killed five people, though declined to defend himself and did not recognise the court's legitimacy.
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