Middle East

Palestinian prisoners announce solidarity strike

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers at a rally Tuesday in support of four imprisoned Palestinians on hunger strike, as hundreds of inmates said they were refusing food for the day in solidarity with the fasting inmates.

The prisoner issue is an emotional one for Palestinians after decades of conflict with Israel.

About 100 Palestinians set fire to tires and threw rocks at the Israeli soldiers near the Ofer prison in the West Bank, prompting the troops to respond with tear gas near, the military said.

Meanwhile, Amani Srahna of the Palestinian Prisoners Club said 800 inmates in three prisons were participating in the one-day protest in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

The prisoners include those belonging to the militant Islamic Jihad faction, which has led previous mass hunger strikes.

One of the four hunger-striking Palestinians is 35-year-old Samer Issawi whose health has severely deteriorated after he has refused food, on-and-off, for more than 200 days.

On Monday, Palestinians blocked roads and held marches across the West Bank to protest the fate of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails and demand the release of the hunger strikers.

Issawi was initially released in 2011 in a prisoner exchange where one Israeli soldier was freed from captivity in Gaza in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were convicted of being involved in deadly attacks.

The Prison Service said Issawi was freed in that deal after serving 6 years of a 26 year sentence for militant activity. Issawi was among a group of prisoners who were released on condition of travel limits. He was arrested after violating the terms of his release it said.

A Jerusalem court is set to hear Issawi's case later in the day.