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Palestinian prisoners set for hunger strike over coronavirus fears

PALESTINIAN political prisoners held in Israeli jails are to go on hunger strike in protest at the authorities’ failure to protect their health amid the coronavirus crisis.

Action started last week, with prisoners affiliated to Hamas sending back breakfasts and lunches; Fatah prisoners also refused some meals.

Hamas spokesman Wasfi Kabha said the prisoners would launch an indefinite hunger strike from April.

He accused Israeli authorities of refusing to test Palestinian detainees for the virus and also failing to provide protective wear, adding they they had been ordered to use their socks in place of face masks.

Mr Kabha warned that most of the illness suffered by Palestinians in Israeli prisons stemmed from a lack of healthcare and poor sanitation. Cells are not cleaned regularly and never disinfected, he said, which allows infections to spread.

The Hamas spokesman said that some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have chronic conditions, making them particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.

International organisations and rights groups must press Israel to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of Palestinians in Israeli jails during the pandemic, he insisted.

The besieged Gaza Strip confirmed its first two Covid-19 cases on Saturday, leading to fears that the virus could spread rapidly due to the Israeli blockade and a severe shortage of medical supplies in the territory.

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