Black-and-white flags flashing slogans such as ‘Freedom for Prisoners’ and ‘Chains must be broken’ flapped in the streets of Ramallah, today, as shops closed in solidarity with nearly 300 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in protest of Israel’s ongoing Administrative Detention policy.In Hebron, dozens of Palestinian protesters marched in the streets in support of the hunger strikers, according to a report recently posted by Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency.

IPS says that 65 hunger strikers are currently being treated in hospitals, with none in critical condition and all conscious. However, recent reports from Palestine place the number at a slightly higher count, with many strikers facing the most serious conditions and some even near death.

Palestinian sources have placed the number of prisoners requiring hospital care at 100.

Just Friday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over ‘reports regarding the deteriorating health of Palestinian administrative detainees’.

Though he has called on Israel to either charge or release them without further delay, Israel says that ‘detention without trial of Palestinians suspected of security offences is sometimes necessary to avoid court proceedings that could expose sensitive intelligence information or informants’, according to Al Ray’s report.

Administrative detention policy allows suspects to be jailed without trial for up to six months. However, such orders can be renewed indefinitely by a military court.

Under the previous agreement which Israel recently reneged on, 2,000 Palestinian prisoners ended their hunger strike with a promise by Israel to end the policy itself but, as of March 1, 183 Palestinians were still being held under administrative detention.

About 5,000 Palestinians are now currently being held in Israeli prisons, nearly 200 of them under administrative detention.

Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned over 800,000 Palestinians, including children.

In related news, Al Ray reports that the Israeli Cabinet approved, today, a bill that could complicate future Palestinian prisoner releases, a central element of negotiations with the Palestinians.

The bill in question would allow the courts to block pardons for prisoners convicted of murder, and would only apply to people convicted after its approval.