Palestinian prisoners have entered the third week of a hunger strike against conditions and practices in Israeli prisons, with numbers swelling to some 1,500 participants.
Several prisoners have been on a hunger strike much longer than the majority of the others, who collectively started on April 17, and are now at risk of dying, including one, Bilal Diab, who has gone over two months without food, Reuters reported. Nine others have also been hospitalized.
"In prison, hunger is the only weapon ... my brother [Bilal Diab] is defending not just his own rights and honor, but those of the whole Palestinian people," Bassam Diab, a former prisoner himself, told Reuters.
Bilal Diab, 27, has been held indefinitely without trial since August 2010. A member of Islamic Jihad, a militant group which has carried out attacks on Israeli citizens, he has not been charged with any crime.
The Palestinian prisoners have been protesting against the practice of indefinite detentions without trial, extended solitary confinement and restricted visitation rights.
Israeli Prison Service spokesperson Sivan Weizman denied any mistreatment of the Palestinian prisoners, but confirmed that some had been hospitalized, though she said they were in stable medical conditionh.
"We are talking about 1,500 prisoners who are on hunger strike. There is no change by the Israeli Prison Service in handling of the situation. An Israeli Prison Service committee has completed their meetings with the prisoners and now making their recommendations and should be published in a few days," Weizman told CNN.
Israeli prisons commissioner Aharon Franco has set up a panel to address the hunger strikers' demands, Palestinian officials confirmed.
"The director of prisons communicated that the prison administration would study seriously their demands and will respond to them after a short time," Qaddoura Fares, head of the prisoner rights advocacy group Palestinian Prisoners' Society, told Reuters.
There are over 4,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, more than 300 of whom are being held indefinitely without trial, a practice which the Israel Prison Service has termed "administrative detention" and says is necessary for protecting undercover sources.
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