Barghouti's strike part of long road

Barghouti is a prominent member of the Fatah movement, though the Palestinian news wire Ma'an reports that imprisoned Palestinians associated with other movements are also taking part.

With the Israeli occupation of Palestine soon marking 50 long years, and with Israel's backer the United States unwilling or unable to rein in its excesses, Palestinians have had to turn to other means to resist.

The Israeli Prison Service issued a statement threatening disciplinary measures for hunger striking.

Prisoners' advocacy organisations like Addameer and the Palestinian Prisoners Club say that 1,500 prisoners are in poor health and receive little medical care.

Starting Sunday, numerous more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons declared that they were on a hunger strike, which prompted demonstrations of support Monday in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority's de facto capital, and elsewhere in the West Bank.

While Israeli ministers and commentators have accused Barghouti of using the strike to strengthen his position in internal Palestinian politics, the claim was denied by Barghouti's son Kassam.

Hunger-striking Palestinians being held under administrative detention and Israeli authorities have negotiated deals in the past.

Israeli officials have dealt with hunger strikes on the part of Palestinian protestors before, however, they are clearly rattled by the scale of this one, which comes as the global community recognizes the 50 anniversary of the Israeli occupation.

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The worldwide community, it insisted, should bear its "legal and ethical responsibilities" to oblige Israel to respect global law by dealing with the Palestinians it is holding as prisoners of war. "In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it".

Mr Erdan said a field hospital would be erected next to one prison - an apparent move to preempt transfers to civilian medical facilities, which could draw wider media attention.

Israel has responded to the mass hunger strike by punishing its organizer, Marwan Barghouti, putting him in solitary confinement.

If sustained, the strike led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed during the second Palestinian uprising, would be the largest in recent years.

Barghouti explained the reasons for the collective strike in an op-ed in The New York Times.

There are approximately 6,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian figures.

Barghouti is one of the best-known among thousands of Palestinians jailed for charges ranging from stone-throwing and membership in terror groups, to attacks that wounded or killed Israelis.

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