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Palestinians stay on hunger strike despite snacking claims

May 9, 2017
Palestinian activists stand around a 5x4 meter (16.5x13 feet) mosaic portrait of Marwan Barghouti near an Israeli military installation in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Israel released a video they say claim Barghouti secretly eating in his cell while leading Palestinian prisoners hunger strike in Israeli jails. Barghouti supporters say video is a fabrication intended to break the prisoners' morale. (AP Photo/ Nasser Shiyoukhi)

JERUSALEM (AP) — More than 880 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel remained on a hunger strike Tuesday, the 23rd day of their protest — a number that was about the same as before the release of a video that Israel claimed shows the strike leader secretly eating in his cell.

Supporters of Marwan Barghouti say the video is a fabrication intended to break the prisoners’ morale. The video, purporting to show Barghouti snacking, was released Sunday.

Near an Israeli military installation in the West Bank, Palestinian activists on Tuesday erected a 5- by 4-meter (16.5- by 13-foot) mosaic portrait of Barghouti made from glass shards, to show support for him and the strike.

“We, the Palestinian people, have high trust in Marwan, and we don’t listen to the Israeli allegations,” said activist Abdullah Abu Rahmeh. “Marwan will lead the strike until it accomplishes its goals.”

Abu Rahmeh said work on the mosaic began before the release of the video.

The prisoners are demanding better conditions, including more family visits.

Israel Prison Service spokeswoman Nicole Englander said 882 prisoners were still on a hunger strike. She said one has been hospitalized and another underwent medical checks. Last week, the number of hunger strikers ranged from 850 to 890.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Israel on Tuesday to meet what he said were humanitarian demands. He said a possible deterioration in the conditions of the hunger strikers “would make the situation more and more complicated.”

The Palestinians sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council late Tuesday appealing to the international community to support the hunger-striking prisoners and demand that Israel respect their rights, dignity and humanity.

The letter from Palestinian Charge d’Affaires Feda Abdelhady-Nasser claimed Israel has not responded to the prisoners’ grievances and calls for an end “to solitary confinement, torture, medical negligence, and administrative detention, as well as for proper access to education, medical care and family visitation.”

The letter claimed that Israel has “intensified its abuse and collective punishment of the prisoners.”

Israeli officials have alleged that Barghouti, widely seen as a potential successor to the 82-year-old Abbas, launched the strike to further his political ambitions.

Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, accused Barghouti of being a “murderer and a hypocrite.”

Barghouti, 58, is serving five life terms after an Israeli court convicted him of directing attacks during a Palestinian uprising that killed five people. Barghouti, in prison since 2002, never mounted a defense, saying the court had no jurisdiction over him.

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