Thursday’s event was organized by the National Union political party youth group, which hoped that the smell of the food would entice the 1,187 hunger strikers to eat.
The strike was launched by 57-year-old imprisoned Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life sentences for murder. His strike was announced in a controversial op-ed for the New York Times, where he accused Israel of torture.
“Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike,” Barghouti wrote.
The prisoners are seeking improved conditions and prisoner rights, such as increased family visits and an end to detention without trial.
Many have speculated that Barghouti is attempting to gain support and position himself to take over as the new leader of the Palestinian people, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is now 82-years-old and will soon need a replacement.
“Barghouti rose to prominence during the second intifada as the architect and senior leader of al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade. Israeli authorities have long claimed that Barghouti is responsible for several acts of terrorism, and he was finally arrested in Ramallah by Israeli Defense Forces in 2002,” Vice News reported.
“Two years later he was convicted on five counts of murder. He refused legal representation, claiming the trial was illegal and illegitimate, and was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences and an additional 40 years in prison. During the first intifada, Barghouti was a strong supporter of the peace process and non-violent resistance.”
Despite his imprisonment, Barghouti has remained one of the most popular Palestinian political voices.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the characterization of Barghouti as a leader, and called the striking prisoners “murderers and terrorists.”
© RIA Novosti. Denis Voroshilov
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