05/01/2017, 18.03
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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As 1,500 Palestinian prisoners continue their hunger strike, protest grows in the West Bank

Israel took away the prisoners’ salt, the only solid food they have been taking. In the West Bank, solidarity protests and strikes break out. Barghouti's son launches the Salt Water Challenge on the web. The tension and fear grow over the possibility of a new intifada.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – As the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons enters its 15th day, the Israel Prison Service has intensified its pressure on prisoners to get them to stop, including seizing their radios and salt, which they took with water.

The hunger strike began on 17 April, the "Palestinian Prisoner Day", to seek better living conditions in Israeli jails, in particular an end to torture, more family visits, and better health care.

Demonstrations and actions in support of the prisoners took place across the West Bank, as well as on the web.

Kairos Palestine, a Christian organisation based in Bethlehem, issued a statement on 26 April, expressing "support for the just and humanitarian demands of prisoners – children, women and the sick – and their families."

On 27 April, schools, banks and businesses across the territory closed in a general strike. Public transport, government and universities did the same.

Various groups called for a "Day of the Anger" on 28 April in support of the prisoners, encouraging Palestinians to face off Israeli soldiers.

Several clashes pitted demonstrators against Israeli soldiers in many Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem.

Scores of young Palestinians clashed with the Israeli army near the Qalandia checkpoint, which connects Jerusalem to Ramallah.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that about 2,000 Palestinians took part in what she called "violent riots" across the West Bank. According to Al Jazeera, 50 were injured in the clash.

The protest moved to social media with a campaign launched by Aarab Marwan Barghouti, son of the Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who has been in an Israeli prison for 15 years.

Inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Aarab Barghouti’s Salt Water Challenge is meant to raise awareness about the prisoners. Instead of dumping ice water on themselves, participants drink salt water in solidarity with the prisoners and post videos of themselves doing it.

In one video, Aarab highlighted the fight for "freedom and dignity" on 3 May. Thus far, thousands of people have already taken part in the campaign, including two Palestinians who won the Arab Idol competition, Mohammed Assaf and Yacoub Shaheen.

Speaking to AsiaNews, activist Adel Misk said that taking away the salt was a "blow to the detainees". The situation is "very tense and difficult" throughout the West Bank and could get worse if one of them dies.

Likewise, some Palestinian leaders have denounced Israel's decision not to negotiate with the prisoners, warning that if one of them died, a "new intifada" might break out.

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