Responding to the call of Marwan Barghouti, the jailed Fatah leader of the West Bank, more than a thousand Palestinian political prisoners are on a hunger strike to protest against the ‘ill-treatment’ inflicted by the prison administration.

The Palestinian NGO, which looks after the families of prisoners,  estimates the numbers to be around 1,600.

The main centers of the strike are the prisons of Gilboa, Hadarim, Ashkelon, Ketziot (one of the hardest settlements in the Negev desert) and Ramon.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently in Israeli lockups. Israel calls them security prisoners – held for offenses ranging from stone throwing to carrying out attacks that killed or wounded Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The strike broke out on 17 April  on the occasion of the traditional “prisoner’s day” instituted in 1975, followed closely in the Palestinian territories, where several demonstrations of support have taken place and scores of protesting Palestinians have been injured by Israeli army action.

Barghouti defied the Israeli government in a long platform published on April16 in the New York Times in an attempt to broaden the protest. He denounced “judicial apartheid”, “mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment” reserved for the Palestinians.

The prisoners have issued a list of demands in thirteen areas, including the end of physical violence and the internment of minors, the right to decent medical care, the right to use public telephones identical to those used by inmates who are not under surveillance, the extension of visiting rights to representatives of humanitarian organizations, the right to freely watch television (which had been abolished in recent months), and the installation of air-conditioning in their overcrowded jails.