Ramallah - More than 1 000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons have started an indefinite hunger strike to demand better conditions, Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Monday.
Approximately 1 100 prisoners in different facilities had declared their intention to strike, said Israel Prison Service spokeswoman Hana Herbst, adding that the service was taking disciplinary measures.
Israel Prison Service, which "has past experience in dealing with hunger strikes and has the means to contain them," was transferring striking prisoners to separate cell blocks, she said in a statement.
Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian prisoners commission, had told local media outlets that about 1 300 prisoners were protesting over grievances including medical negligence, administrative detention, limited family visits and violations of the UN Geneva Convention.
The Israel Prison Service expects the number of striking prisoners to increase in the coming days after Palestinian officials, marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day on Monday, have called for the public to show support at rallies throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The strike was called by imprisoned Fatah party leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for his involvement in the killing of Israelis during the second Intifada in the early 2000s.
Top Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi called on the international community to bring an end to the "inhumane" treatment of Palestinian prisoners. "Israel must not be given a free hand to systematically dehumanize the Palestinian people without any serious accountability or punitive measures," she said in a statement released on Sunday.
There are more than 6 500 Palestinians in Israeli jails, including 500 prisoners held in administrative detention, that is without facing charges or a trial, according to the prisoners' commission.
Palestinian families seeking to visit their imprisoned relatives require permits to enter into Israel, which are usually given selectively and declined during Israeli army border closings.
Israel passed a highly controversial law in July that allows prison authorities to request court permission to force-feed a prisoner. The law has been vehemently condemned by doctors and human rights groups.