Israel faces uprising as six hunger strikers near death
Israel has been warned that it faces a major uprising in the West Bank after six Palestinian prisoners taking part in one of the largest hunger strikes to be staged in its jails were said to be close to death.
Palestinian militant groups and moderate politicians alike predicted that years of relative peace could be brought to an end if any of the 1,600 inmates refusing food starved to death.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said this week that the six hunger strikers were "at imminent risk of dying".
None of the six, who have all been taken to prison hospitals, has eaten for the past 50 days. But the greatest concern is directed at two men, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab.
By yesterday, both men had refused food for 74 days, one more than that managed by Kieran Doherty, the longest surviving of the 10 Irish militants who died during the Maze Prison hunger strike of 1981.
Bobby Sands, the first to die, succumbed after 66 days.
The men's act of defiance, called in protest at their incarceration without trial, has spiralled into a crisis for Israel.
Prisoner rights are a deeply emotive subject for Palestinians, a fifth of whom -- some 700,000 people -- have served time in Israeli jails, according to activist groups.
There have already been violent clashes between protesters and the Israeli security forces outside the prisons where hunger-striking inmates are being held. More demonstrations are planned for today.
"If anyone dies there will be a third intifada that will include both violence and non-violence," said Ahmad Zidan, whose brother Rami is among the hunger strikers.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant Gaza-based group, has already declared that it will end its ceasefire if any prisoner dies.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority said: "It is very dangerous, If anyone dies today or tomorrow or after a week, it would be a disaster and no one could control the situation." (© Daily Telegraph, London)