Top Christian cleric in Jerusalem to join Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike

A top Christian cleric in Jerusalem has announced that he will join the 1,500 Palestinian prisoners who are on a mass hunger strike to call for better conditions for prisons in Israel.

(REUTERS / Ammar Awad)Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem April 17, 2017.

On May 7, Greek Orthodox archbishop of Sebastia, Atallah (Theodosios) Hanna expressed support for the efforts of the Palestinian prisoners to voice out their concerns and demands. The prisoners, led by senior Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, are currently on their third week of the mass hunger strike, the Daily Sabah reports.

As of now, there are 6,500 Palestinians jailed in Israel over charges related to the conflict between the two countries. The prisoners want to be granted more family visits and to live under improved conditions while in jail.

"Palestinians deserve to live freely in their own land, the main aim is the prisoners' liberation," Archbishop Hanna said.

The hunger strike has sparked protests across the Palestinian society, with some of them staging a demonstration outside the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip. Organizers of the strike have called for more protests and a boycott on Israeli products on all shops, plus a general strike.

One of the protesters is Neama Haddad, whose son is jailed in Israel. She told Anadolu Agency that they want international organizations to work for the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

"We came today to show solidarity with our imprisoned sons in Israeli jails," Haddad told Anadolu Agency. "The prisoners are suffering from racist practices against them by prison authorities."

Israel is reportedly planning to force-feed the Palestinian prisoners who have gone on the hunger strike, but a group of Israeli doctors called for their colleagues all over the world to reject this plan. The follow-up committee of the strike warned of clashes in prisons if the plan would push through.

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that Barghouti is just exploiting the Palestinian prisoners. His comments come on the heels of the release of security footage that allegedly show the Palestinian leader secretly eating amidst the ongoing hunger strike, The Jerusalem Post notes.

Based on the security video, Barghouti reportedly broke the hunger strike on April 27 and on May 5. The footage shows him carrying some items into the bathroom in his cell, and another in which he seems to be chewing.