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Hunger intifada? Palestinian prisoners wield new-old tool against Israel.

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Robert Serry, the United Nations envoy for Middle East peace, issued a statement yesterday saying he was "deeply troubled" by the conditions of those prisoners, who are being held in administrative detention. "Above all, he urges all sides to find a solution before it is too late, and calls on Israel to abide by its legal obligations under international law and do everything in its power to preserve the health of the prisoners," the statement said.

'These are not boy scouts'

Since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Palestinian prisoners have executed more than a dozen hunger strikes. One in five Palestinians has spent time in an Israeli jail, according to prisoner support group Adameer, and almost every family has had a member incarcerated.

But Israel, which has lost thousands of civilians to Palestinian terrorist attacks, says it is not locking up just anyone.

“These are not boy scouts,” says the Israeli prime minister's spokesperson, Mark Regev, cautioning that most prisoners refusing food have been convicted of crimes by Israel. Mr. Adnan, he points out, is an admitted member of Islamic Jihad – an organization that has claimed responsibility for the deaths of scores of Israelis. He calls the use of administrative detention “unfortunate, but necessary” because it is used to protect informants who provide information about those being detained.

Of those in Israeli jails, at least 300 are being held under administrative detention orders, which can be repeatedly renewed without a transparent judicial process. In a report released May 2, Human Rights Watch said, “Israel should immediately charge or release people jailed without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention."

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