The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement has announced the start of a mass hunger strike by its prisoners held in Israeli jails, in refusal of the punitive measures imposed on them following the escape of six Palestinians from Gilboa prison last month.
Palestinian prisoners are divided into cells according to their political affiliation.
Most of the prisoners who belong to the Islamic Jihad, who number about 400, will participate in the strike, with the support of all other factions, that started on Wednesday.
According to a statement from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, the hunger strike is part of “the resistance programme announced recently by the prisoners’ National Emergency Committee, which was based mainly on rebellion and rejection of prison administration laws”.
The statement said the Islamic Jihad prisoners delivered a letter to the Israeli prison administration on Tuesday, stating their demands, as well as informing them of their decision to go on a hunger strike.
There are about 4,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 35 women and 200 children.
In the aftermath of the six Palestinian prisoners escaping from the high-security Gilboa prison last month, the Israel Prison Service cracked down particularly hard on prisoners belonging to the Islamic Jihad, to which five of the escapees belong.
The jailbreak triggered a massive manhunt for the group that included Zakaria Zubeidi, a former leader of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades armed group and the only member affiliated with the Fatah group.
The six men were all caught in pairs at separate times barely two weeks after their escape, and face lengthy charges in addition to their original life sentences.
Zubeidi and his fellow inmate Munadel Infiat were not sentenced at the time of their escape.
Following the prison break, a number of prisoners belonging to the Islamic Jihad were transferred to solitary confinement, and leaders of the movement were transferred to interrogation cells in a bid to dismantle its structure within Israeli prisons.
The Palestinian factions then announced an escalating “struggle programme” against the prison administration’s suppression of prisoners and its attempt to suppress the achievements made by prisoners through past hunger strikes.