Some 1,100 jailed Palestinians in four Israeli prisons started a hunger strike Friday morning to demand that Israel release prisoners and to protest their conditions, it was reported Friday.
Prisoners at the jail in the southern city of Ashkelon - one of the prisons at which the hunger strike is in effect - rioted Thursday, leaving two guards and 20 prisoners lightly injured from inhaling tear gas used by Israeli officers to bring the riot under control.
The violence broke out when wardens tried to search a Palestinian prisoner's cell.
Palestinian officials in contact with the prisoners said the riot was related to prison conditions and had no connection with Palestinian demands for Israel to free prisoners as part of U.S.-led peace efforts. Issa Qaraqaa, who heads the Prisoners' Club, told AFP the riot had broken out as a result of a decision to erect a plastic wall in the visiting area.
"Inmates can no longer shake hands and embrace their families as they were doing when there was just a fence," he said.
The protest came a day after Palestinian Minister for Prisoners Hisham Abd al-Razeq warned that Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails could riot if they were not released as part of peace moves.
"An explosion inside Israeli jails will be imminent if Israel adheres to its unilateral decision on releasing prisoners based on unfair and racist criteria and if Israel does not respond to Palestinian demands on prisoners," he said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )