Israeli officials meanwhile said the strike was politically motivated.The call for a mass hunger strike was issued by Marwan Barghouti, a high-ranking member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, who was sentenced to five life sentences on murder charges during the Second Intifada.
"These are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting exactly what the worldwide law requires", he told Israel's Army Radio. Barghouti, who disputed the court's jurisdiction and didn't mount a defense, has been in prison since 2002. He is now serving five life sentences and 40 additional years for the murders. The court also found Barghouti responsible for a June 2001 attack in Maale Adumim, in which a Greek monk was murdered, a January 2002 terror attack on a gas station in Givat Zeev, and a auto bomb attack in Jerusalem.
The last large-scale hunger strike was in February 2013, when 3,000 Palestinians refused to eat for one day in protest at the death of a fellow detainee.
Indeed, while Mr. Barghouti did note in passing that he is serving several life sentences, he failed to mention that they were imposed for his notorious acts of murder and destruction. The Israeli outlet Haaretz published a statement by the country's prison service, saying: "The Israel Prison Service has a great deal of experience in coping with hunger strikes, and it has the ways and the means to deal with them".
According to Palestinian medical sources, 20 Palestinians suffered temporary asphyxiation due to the excessive use of teargas by Israeli troops.
"If their demands are not met, more prisoners will join the strike", he said in a statement which called on the United Nations and worldwide community to intervene.
Barghouti is a legendary Palestinian prisoner in a society where Palestinian prisoners are granted exalted status.
Led by Fatah central committee chief and popular leader Marwan Barghouti, "The Strike of Freedom and Dignity" is considered the biggest strike since 2012 when hundreds of prisoners participated in the effort to end solitary confinement.
The men said they hoped the smell of the grilled meat would increase the suffering of the detainees who launched a hunger strike this week, a reporter at the scene said. His strike was announced in a controversial op-ed for the New York Times, where he accused Israel of torture. He called their strike "light", meaning they had gone along with it, but the chances of their sustaining it are nil. In an even more extreme instance, the Times' David Brooks not only writes extensive puff pieces defending Israel while his son serves in the Israeli military but also wrote op-eds in other publications defending his son's enlistment and the Israeli army's behavior in Gaza.
There were about 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails at the end of previous year, according to Palestinian prisoners' groups.