Some 3,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails on Wednesday refused breakfast as part of a one-day hunger strike to mark Prisoners’ Day, an Israeli prison official said.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem estimates some 4,713 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel.
Activists reached the Ofer prison perimeter on Wednesday morning, and tore down 50 meters of the prison fence, mounting a Palestinian flag on prison grounds.
“After around four minutes of being at the fence, Israeli soldiers showed up. They fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs at the protesters,” Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, spokesman of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, told Al-Akhbar.
“It is necessary to pressure Israel to release the Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikers,” he added.
In the West Bank, around 600 relatives of prisoners gathered for a sit-in in the rain at Arafat Square in central Ramallah. Another rally was being held in the northern city of Nablus.
Meanwhile in Gaza, hundreds of people were taking part in a march from central Gaza City to the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, an AFP correspondent said.
Events to mark Prisoners’ Day began on Tuesday when youngsters in Gaza City released thousands of balloons into the air, each bearing the name of a prisoner, while there were also solidarity gatherings in Rafah in the south.
During the evening, demonstrators gathered in a village near the West Bank city of Hebron to light a “freedom torch” in front of the home of Arafat Jaradat, a prisoner who died in Israeli custody last month after several days of interrogation, prompting Palestinian allegations of torture.
“It was a symbolic event to deliver a clear message, firstly to the Israeli side and secondly to the international community, that it is intolerable for us to continue receiving our prisoners as corpses,” Amjad al-Najjar, head of the Hebron branch of the Prisoners’ Club, told Voice of Palestine radio.
On Tuesday evening, candle-lighting ceremonies took place in Gaza City as well as in Hebron, AFP correspondents said.
Of the Palestinians currently detained by Israel, some 320 are being held under administrative detention orders, whereby they are held without charge for renewable six-month periods, the prisoners’ ministry says.
Last year’s Prisoners’ Day saw the release of Khader Adnan from Israeli prison. The Islamic Jihad inmate went on hunger strike for a record 66 days to protest being held without charges.