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Palestinian prisoners launch hunger strike over prison conditions

Prisoners complained of raids on cells and jamming technology preventing phone calls
Israeli forces stand at one of the entrances to Israel’s Ofer prison in December 2016 (AFP)

Dozens of Palestinians began hunger strikes in Israeli prisons on Monday, protesting about poor conditions in the country's jails.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, around 40 inmates were involved in what they termed the "Dignity Strike" were refusing food.

They added that all the major political factions supported their move, including Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah.

Nahed al-Fakhouri, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Media Office, told the Quds News Network that the hunger strike came after negotiations with prison officials had broken down.

“The prisoners had been negotiating many issues with the Israeli Prison Service for the last two days, but the Israeli officers changed their minds about the understandings in the last moments,” al-Fakhouri said.

Among the demands were the allowance of a TV and a telephone in the prisons, and an end to raids on their cells.

Some also objected to new electronic jammers installed in some of the prisons, intended to block cellphone reception. According to the Quds News Network, the inmates also believed the jammers were "cancer-causing", and had been responsible for "severe headaches and fainting".

An official told AFP the jammers would remain in place and that the IPS would "know how to contain a strike", as they had in the past.

Palestinian prisoners have regularly used hunger strikes to highlight their plight but this could be the largest since April 2017, when some 800 people refused food.

That protest eventually ended a month later after negotiations.

Israelis go to the polls for fiercely contested parliamentary elections on Tuesday.