Ramallah- Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails Marwan al-Barghouthi has vowed that the recently ended hunger strike was a “turning point” in the Palestinian prisoners’ relationship with Israeli prison officials.
The Fatah leader, in a statement he issued on Tuesday, warned Israeli authorities that prisoners would resume their strike if their commitments were not fulfilled.
Barghouthi said that forming a unified leadership among prisoners is a preparation being taken towards the battle to wrest recognition of the inmates as political prisoners and prisoners of war, recognition found in third and fourth Geneva Conventions.
Barghouthi was held in solitary confinement throughout the strike’s duration, while Israeli authorities attempted to discredit the leader by releasing a video of Barghouthi purportedly eating in his solitary cell during the hunger strike, which Palestinian leaders quickly denounced as “fake” and an attempt by Israeli authorities to delegitimize Barghouthi.
Israeli authorities had refused to negotiate with Barghouthi up until the 11th hour of negotiations between the Israel Prison Service (IPS), the Palestinian Authority, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), while the hunger strikers had insisted that any negotiations that did not include Barghouthi were illegitimate and “aimed at breaking the hunger strike in exchange for empty promises.”
On the other hand, Barghouthi said that resuming political negotiations should be conditioned by first releasing prisoners.
He also offered his condolences and expressed pride in martyrs who had died for regaining the rights of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Barghouthi praised the prisoners and their families, Palestinians at home and abroad, the media, institutions and individuals, but he did not thank his fellows in the Fatah Central Committee or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in an indication of differences over how to deal with the strike.
About 1,000 men had taken part in the strike, and Israeli officials said this past week that nearly every prisoner had needed hospital care, including Barghouti.
Barghouti was sentenced in 2004 to five life terms. Surveys show many Palestinians want him to be their next president.