April 17 was widely observed across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as “Prisoners’ Day,” a day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who are languishing in Israeli jails. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest what the Palestinian Prisoner Club called “intolerable living conditions” inside Israeli prisons.

The PPC led a two-day hunger strike involving thousands of prisoners to call for an improvement in their conditions and assurances from the Palestinian Authority that any peace deal with Israel will include their release.

According to MIFTAH, a Palestinian peace and justice group, today there are about 8,000 Palestinians being held in Israel jails and prisons. Of this number, 128 are women and 312 are children.

Since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada five years ago, 35,000 Palestinians, including 3,000 children, have been arrested by the Israeli authorities. Virtually every Palestinian family has had one of its members detained by the Israeli authorities at one point or another. Altogether about 650,000 Palestinians have been detained over the past 38 years.

Prison conditions are often nightmarish, said MIFTAH. Notwithstanding the well-known acts of sadism and torture at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, MIFTAH points out that “Israel is the only country in the world which legally permits the use of torture as a form of interrogation.” According to the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, 177 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since 1967. Sixty-nine of these died as a result of torture and 70 died during interrogation sessions.

MIFTAH, invoking “the inalienable and basic principles of human rights and democracy,” called for the immediate and unconditional release of the Palestinian prisoners. For more information, visit www.miftah.org.