April 18 (UPI) — Israeli prison officials put leaders of a Palestinian hunger strike in solitary confinement as the strike expanded and thousands of supporters in the West Bank marched in protest.
Marwan Barghouti and Karim Younis, strike leaders, were moved to solitary confinement on Monday. Barghouti accused Israel of implementing “mass arbitrary arrests and ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners” in an essay published Sunday in The New York Times.
After about two weeks of preparation, the hunger strike began Sunday, with about 700 prisoners protesting solitary confinement, detention without trial and lack of access to telephones and family visits. It expanded Monday, and about 1,100 people, of a prison population of about 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, are involved in the hunger strike, the Israel Prison Service said. More are expected to join, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Tuesday.
The prisoners seek a return to policies in effect prior to the killing of three Israelis in 2014, after which Israel withdrew some prisoner privileges.
The strike has broad support among Palestinian leaders and organizations. A statement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday called for international intervention before the health of striking prisoners worsens. The statement came as thousands of people demonstrated in cities across the West Bank; more than 2,000 people marched through Ramallah.