At least 11 of the nearly 1,300 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails have been taken ill, a Palestinian rights group said Wednesday.
The 11 sick were among 92 prisoners who have been on hunger strike since the beginning of the month, according to Eissa Qaraqa, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club in the West Bank.
He told AFP that they had been taken to prison hospitals and given glucose intravenously.
But an Israeli prison authority spokeswoman denied that any prisoners had been hospitalized and said that many of the hunger strikers have been eating in private.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been racked with violence for five straight days after marches held in solidarity with the prisoners deteriorated into stone throwing and fierce gun battles with Israeli soldiers.
At least four Palestinians were killed in the clashes and hundreds more wounded, including at least 20 Israelis.
Qaraqa said that in addition to those who began to hunger strike at the start of the month, 1,200 other prisoners have been fasting, only drinking water and milk for periods ranging from three to nine days.
But the Israeli official said some of the prisoners have been eating food that they purchased in prison canteens and accepting soup -- claims Qaraqa dismissed as "pure lies."
He said the prisoners would continue to starve themselves until conditions inside Israeli jails were improved and Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators worked seriously to resolve the fate of some 1,600 inmates, jailed for anti-Israeli activities, many of them violent.
Qaraqa said the wave of violent protests, which newspapers have already begun to call "the Intifada of the prisoners," would likely continue because many Palestinians sympathize with the prisoners.
Palestinian officials believe that the prisoners should be given amnesty because they fought against Israel in the context of what they consider a legitimate national struggle.
Israel, however, officially considers them to be "security prisoners" and politicians often refer to them as "terrorists."
Since an interim peace accord signed between Israel and the Palestinians last September, Israel has released almost 400 prisoners – OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)