Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian – who has been imprisoned for 15 years – has been placed in solitary confinement after writing an op-ed for the New York Times about a mass hunger strike he is currently leading.
"Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners," Barghouti wrote in the op-ed, explaining the motivation for the hunger strike.
"And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation," he wrote.
Some 1,200 prisoners have joined the hunger strike so far, and the number is expected to pass 2,000, according to Haaretz. Tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters marched and rallied in the West Bank and the Gaza strip in support of the strike.
Israelis dismissed the prisoners as "terrorists"
Several top Israeli officials publicly vowed not to negotiate with the protesters. Israeli prisons have also blocked family members from visiting prisoners participating in the hunger strike.
"They are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting what they deserve and we have no reason to negotiate with them,” Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said, according to RT.
Some leaders have also called for executing Barghouti.
"When a despicable murderer like Barghouti protests in prison for improved conditions, while the relatives of those he murdered are still in pain, there is only one solution – death penalty for terrorists," Israeli Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz tweeted this week.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also blasted Barghouti and the New York Times for publishing the op-ed.
The Palestinian leader was imprisoned for five counts of murder and membership in a "terrorist organization." At his trial in 2002, Barghouti refused to offer a defense saying he did not recognize the Israeli courts legitimacy. He is considered the leader behind the First and Second Intifada and was leader of Tanzim, a paramilitary offshoot of Fatah before being imprisoned.
Thousands of Palestinians are currently incarcerated
Rights groups estimate that some 6,500 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israelis. Of these, some 300 are minors and 500 are being held without any charges for an indefinite amount of time.
Amnesty International condemned the poor conditions prisoners face in a report published this month. Many family members told Amnesty that they had not seen their imprisoned loved ones for years, as Israeli officials routinely refuse visits.
"Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions," Barghouti wrote.
"Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace," he wrote.