Ramallah: At least 1,200 Palestinian inmates of Israeli jails began an open-ended hunger strike on Tuesday as rallies across the occupied territories marked Prisoners` Day.
As thousands gathered in towns and cities in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, three-quarters of the 4,700 Palestinians held by Israel began refusing food, the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) said.
Of that number, 2,300 male and eight female prisoners said they would refuse food throughout the day, while another 1,200 said they were beginning a hunger strike, IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP.
"In the framework of Prisoners` Day, around 2,300 security prisoners said they were refusing their daily meals, and around 1,200 prisoners said they were starting a hunger strike," Weizman said.
"At IPS, we have coped with hunger strikes in the past and we are prepared to do so again now," she added.
Speaking to crowds gathered in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, gave a higher figure for the hunger strike, saying "1,500 prisoners from all the factions" had joined it already and more were expected to later in the month.
"We are united and undivided when it comes to prisoners, and we will stand by them until they get their demands," he said.
Earlier this week, prisoners minister Issa Qaraqaa told AFP that 1,600 inmates were expected to join the strike, and on Tuesday he said the initial number was likely to grow.(AFP)