Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have begun an open-ended mass hunger strike to protest against the deteriorating conditions inside the jails.
About 30 prisoners started the strike on Sunday, and up to 1,500 others will join the action in the coming week, the inmates said in a statement.
The prisoners will reject the intake of any food or water until their demands, in particular the removal of mobile phone reception blocking equipment installed in the notorious prison of Ramon, are met. The equipment is believed to be hazardous and may cause cancer.
The prisoners further said that depriving them from mobile phone service has worsened their condition, leaving them unable to communicate with their family members.
The inmates also launched the strike in protest against the Israeli ban on family visits for prisoners from the besieged Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, an Israeli newspaper quoted the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) as saying that it would respond “forcefully and with determination” to ensure the jamming equipment would not be removed.
Hunger strikers are expected to be subject to punishment, including solitary confinement. The prison authorities may also force-feed them.
In 2015, Israel approved a law that authorizes force-feeding Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, a practice criticized by the United Nations as a violation of human rights.
Earlier this year, Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan announced plans to “worsen” conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including rationing water supplies.
Under the plan, the prisoners would no longer be able to cook for themselves. The new restrictions would also limit prisoners’ access to television and reduce the number of family visits.
More than 7,000 Palestinians are reportedly held in Israeli jails. Hundreds of the inmates have apparently been incarcerated under the practice of administrative detention, a policy under which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention centers without trial or charge.
Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to 11 years.
Palestinian inmates regularly stage hunger strike in protest at the administrative detention policy and harsh conditions in Israeli jails.
Over a dozen Palestinian lawmakers and nearly 20 journalists are also held in Israeli detention centers, several of them under the administrative detention policy.