Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners join hunger strike

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - 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 Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman 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 said.

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.

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.

Both began refusing food on Nov 28 in protest and their detention orders are due to expire or be renewed on Friday.

Issawi, 33, and Sharawna, 36, were long-term security prisoners who were 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.

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