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The Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and Alexandria and Jerusalem has reportedly started refusing food in a show of solidarity with hundreds of Palestinians, who have gone on hunger strike in Israeli jails in protest at the administrative detention policy and harsh prison conditions.

Gregory III Laham, 83, started the pro-Palestinian measure on Saturday, Arabic-language Wattan news agency reported.

The development came a day after the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) announced that at least 15 Palestinians in the Israeli-run Ofer prison near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah had launched an open-ended hunger strike.

There are also reports that the Tel Aviv regime is considering force-feeding Palestinian hunger strikers in an attempt to put an end to their protest.

The Israeli Health Ministry has ordered hospitals to get ready to receive hundreds of hunger strikers. The ministry said hospitals should force prisoners to take medicines or nutrients if they are in a life-threatening condition or risk permanent disabilities.

Since April 17, more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have joined the protest action, dubbed the Freedom and Dignity Strike, which was initially called by imprisoned and former Fatah movement leader Marwan Barghouti.

This file photo shows Palestinian prisoners at Israel’s Megiddo Prison.

The strikers are demanding basic rights, such as an end to the policies of administrative detention, solitary confinement and deliberate medical negligence.

The much criticized administrative detention is a policy under which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.

Back in 2012, a similar hunger strike, involving some 2,000 Palestinian inmates, ended after an agreement was reached with Israeli authorities to terminate the policy of internment without trial or charge.

The Palestinian inmates regularly hold hunger strikes in protest against the administrative detention policy and their harsh prison conditions.

Nearly 700 prisoners are currently held in administrative detention. Some of the inmates have been held in prison under the policy for up to 11 years.

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