Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated at the gates of the Bir Shiva prison south of the country in solidarity with the prisoners who are on hunger strike for the fourth day in a row.

The families came to visit their sons in the prison which gates were closed in the face of the families. The family visit turned into a demonstration.

Azmi Bishara, Arab member of Knesset, who joined the demonstration, that there was a serious deterioration in the situation in the prisons. The authority of Shatta prison, have raised the level of humiliation by conducting more strip searches, and placed glass barriers in the visiting rooms between the prisoners and their families.

The families are facing difficulties during their visits that became very rare in the past two years.

Bishara Said ‘We believe that those people behind these bars should be there. Their freedom is related to the freedom of the Palestinian People. However, as long as Israel keeps them there, they have to at least commit to the minimum of their responsibilities in dealing with thousands of prisoners in its jails. We hold Israel responsible for all what happens for the prisoners because of this Hunger Strike. It is obvious through the statements of Minister of Public Security Tzahi Hanegbi that he is not mature enough. Minister of Public Security is directly responsible from the Prison Authorities and if he does not like this job, he should leave his post to someone else. He can not respond to the prisoners’ demands by saying, ‘Let them starve to death’, Israel should either release them, or stand to its responsibility towards them.’

In solidarity with the prisoners, the Palestinian Authority declared Wednesday a hunger strike day in all the Palestinian territories in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners whose hunger strike has entered its third day.

The Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who is a prisoner himself, commenced the hunger strike and greeted the prisoners in their cells.

Other Palestinian groups in Israel are also organizing a demonstration on Wednesday at Bir Sheeva prison in solidarity with the Prisoners and in protest against the neglecting by the Israeli Prison Authorities and the inhumane living conditions in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli prison authorities showed complete disregard of the Hunger strike.

We will use IV tubes to force-feed prisoners if necessary, Israeli Prison service official Eli Gabizon said Sunday.

In reaction to the strike, the Prisons Service imposed additional restrictions, removing radios and television sets from jail cells, did not distribute newspapers, canceled family visits and stopped selling cigarettes.

Tzahi Hanegbi, the public security minister, said Israel will not adhere to prisoner’s pressure, they can starve to die if they want.

‘The prisoners can strike for a day, a month, even starve to death, as far as I am concerned,’ Hanegbi said.

Palestinian Political Prisoners in Nafah, Eishel, and Hadarim Prisons declared an open ended hunger strike on Sunday. Prisoners in other prisons and detention centers will join the hunger strike in the coming days, probably Wednesday.

Around 4,000 prisoners will join the first stage of the general hunger strike. It is not known whether or when the remaining 4,000 Palestinians in military detention centers join the strike.

Israeli Prison Authority and Security officials rejected prisoners’ demands, and insisted that political motivations are behind the prisoners’ move.

“Palestinian security prisoners can starve to death” Israeli Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Friday, affirming that Israel does not intend to positively deal with prisoners’ demands.

In protest against grieve human conditions inside Israeli jails, some 8,000 Palestinian political prisoners announced earlier this month their intention to start an open ended hunger strike on August 15.

The prisoners are demanding public telephones in their cell blocks, the removal of glass separating them from visiting relatives, adequate health care, and an end to ‘intrusive’ body searches.

What is certain is that the prisoners are threatening to extend their hunger strike in a dramatic fashion, some even hinting that they would be willing to in fact die of hunger, imitating inmates in Turkey and Northern Ireland.

The prisons authority warned that if the hunger strike goes ahead, the prisoners will suffer the loss of existing privileges, including end to all family visits as well as a loss of television and radio privileges.

The Prisons authority prepared two special units with expertise in crowd dispersal and mass evacuation of injured prisoners to hospitals.