There are 5,380 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, according to the rights group B'tselem
A handcuffed Palestinian prisoner appears from behind the bars of an Israeli prison bus in 2004. Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza staged demonstrations on Monday in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. © Tal Cohen - AFP/File
There are 5,380 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, according to the rights group B'tselem
AFP
Last updated: October 3, 2011

Palestinians rally for prisoners in Israeli jails

Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza staged demonstrations on Monday in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

The rallies were called five days after the inmates went on hunger strike to protest against the solitary confinement of some of their fellow prisoners, including a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Around 2,000 people joined a rally in front of the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

The demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, pictures of prisoners, and banners with slogans reading: "No to solitary confinement."

They also handed over a letter calling on the Red Cross to intervene on the prisoners' behalf.

Further south, several hundred Palestinians held a similar rally in the centre of Ramallah.

And in Gaza City, around 1,000 people demonstrated outside the local headquarters of the Red Cross.

Leaders of the ruling Hamas party addressed the crowd, and pledged that Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza-based militants in 2006, would not be freed until Palestinian prisoners were released.

"We assure our courageous prisoners that the day of liberation approaches and that Shalit will not taste freedom or see the light until our prisoners have been released safe and sound," Hamas leader Ismail al-Ashqar said.

The Islamist movement has sought to exchange Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but mediated talks between the two sides have repeatedly failed, with Israel refusing to free Palestinians accused of carrying out anti-Israeli attacks.

Palestinian prisoners minister Issa Qaraqa on Wednesday announced that all of the roughly 6,000 prisoners in Israeli jails were joining an initial three-day hunger strike to protest solitary confinement.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli Prisons Authority of the number of prisoners who refused food last week, but by Monday, IPA spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said "160 prisoners" were observing a hunger strike.

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