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Israel punishes hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners

Barghouti's op-ed, timed with the announcement of a Palestinian prisoner hunger strike, accused Israel of "judicial apartheid" and the abuse of Palestinians behind bars.

Just a day later, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan vowed not to negotiate with the protesting detainees, confirming the popular Palestinian leader had been moved to another prison and placed in solitary confinement.

As far as the Israeli government is concerned, there will be no talks with the approximately 1,187 Palestinian prisoners engaged in a hunger strike since Monday.

The media committee said the strikers aim at restoring many of their rights that were taken away by the occupation prisons administration, which they had achieved through many past strikes.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons, including 300 minors, according to Palestinian human rights organization Addameer.

Tens on thousands of Palestinians marched through the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to show their support for the strike.

"They are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting what they deserve and we have no reason to negotiate with them", Erdan told occupation army radio.

Prisoners are demanding more contact with relatives, better access to medical treatment and an end to the Israeli practice of detention without trial.

A spokesperson for Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that the prisoners were not political prisoners, but "convicted murderers and terrorists".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he had read the Sunday article in the Times that "presents arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti as a "parliamentarian and leader".

The protest was led by Marwan Barghouti, 58, a leader from the mainstream Fatah movement of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, serving five life terms after being convicted of murder in the killing of Israelis in a 2000-2005 uprising known as the Second Intifada.

Hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners occur regularly, but rarely on such a large scale.

In the past, he said, Israel's attempts to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners had failed to stem repeated mass hunger strikes, which is why - this time around - it has set up medical facilities near the prisons.

Earlier on Monday, 13 Palestinians were reported wounded in clashes as demonstrations swept the West Bank in solidarity with the prisoners. Israel calls them security prisoners - held for offenses ranging from stone throwing and membership in outlawed groups to carrying out attacks that killed or wounded Israelis.

Some Israeli analysts have sought to highlight the rivalry between Barghouti and Abbas within their Fatah party, suggesting his call for a hunger strike was also related to internal politics.