No talks with Palestinian inmates on hunger strike

Qadoura Fares, an advocate for prisoners' rights, said 6,500 Palestinians are now held by Israel.

ISRAELI officials opted for repression yesterday in the face of a hunger strike by more than 1,100 Palestinian prisoners, rejecting dialogue and putting leading activist Marwan Barghouti into solitary confinement.

Observers fear the protests could snowball into increased hostilities across the West Bank.

"The Israeli authorities and its prison service have turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under global law - including those painfully secured through previous hunger strikes - into privileges they decide to grant us or deprive us of", he wrote.

Others are detained under so-called Administrative Detention, which allows suspects to be held without charge for six-month intervals.

The open-ended strike of Palestinians is in response to the poor conditions and the Israeli policy of detention, in which they are being jailed since the 1980s without any trial.

Palestinian families seeking to visit their imprisoned relatives require permits to enter into Israel, which are usually given selectively and declined during Israeli army border closings.

Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said he believes the strike is politically motivated and that the prisoners have no legitimate complaints.

Israeli authorities have placed him under solitary confinement for calling the strike - now in its second day. "It is to be emphasized that the (Prisons Service) does not negotiate with prisoners".

Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a large scale.

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.

There were about 7000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails by the end of previous year, according to Palestinian prisoners' groups.

The reports about the conversation between Zomlot and Ratney stated that the Palestinian envoy, who is considered one of the closest people to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, emphasized the "dire situation" of the prisoners.

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.

"Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and medical negligence", Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah armed resistance leader who has been imprisoned since 2002, wrote in the The New York Times on Sunday.

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