Palestinian threats as jail hunger strike starts

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Palestinian militants have threatened to kidnap Israelis and to step up bombings in support of 3,800 prisoners who launched a hunger strike yesterday in 20 Israeli jails.

Palestinian militants have threatened to kidnap Israelis and to step up bombings in support of 3,800 prisoners who launched a hunger strike yesterday in 20 Israeli jails.

Nasser Joma'a, commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Nablus, said: "This is our response to the rejection of the Palestinian strugglers' demands. We will escalate our military actions."

The prison service reported that, so far, 1,645 had joined the strike in four prisons. They were refusing food, but drinking water. The rest are expected to start fasting later this week. The prisoners are demanding access to telephones, that glass partitions separating them from visitors be removed and an end to "humiliating" body searches.

Ya'akov Ganot, the prison commissioner, said he was ready to compromise, but "not at the price of demands to continue hostile terrorist action or to control the prisons".

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel's Public Security Minister, insisted: "The prisoners can strike for a day, a month, even starve to death as far as I'm concerned." Ian Domnitz, a prison service spokesman, told The Independent that officials would consider force-feeding.

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