Middle East

Many injured in West Bank protests over hunger strikes

Palestinian protester at Ofer Prison in West Bank - 21 Feb 2013
Image caption The issue of hunger strikers has been drawing protests and international attention

More than 60 people have been injured in clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army in the West Bank, the Palestinian Red Crescent has said.

Youths, gathered outside Ofer prison near Ramallah, threw stones and petrol bombs towards Israeli soldiers.

The soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets. There were reports of live fire being used.

The demonstrators were calling for the release of four Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike.

The prisoners say they have been detained without charge; Israel argues the men are a security threat.

One of the hunger strikers, Samer Issawi, has been on an on off strike for more than 200 days. He is said to weigh less than 50kg.

For most of his strike, he has been taking only water as well as vitamins, minerals and sugars.

The three other hunger strikers are Tariq Qaadan, Jafar Ezzedine and Ayman Sharawna.

A spokesperson for Israel's Prisons Service said earlier this week the four prisoners were in "satisfactory condition" and receiving medical treatment as needed, but they had lost the right to family visits when they began their protests.

As of December 2012, Israel held 4,517 Palestinians in its jails.

Of these 1,031 are being held until the conclusion of legal proceedings, 178 are in administrative detention (without charge or trial) and 170 are under 18 years of age.

Administrative detention is a system under which a military court can order suspects to be detained indefinitely, subject to renewal every six months by the court, without trial or charge. The Israeli military says it uses administrative detention when it fears an immediate risk to security or to protect informants.

The issue of prisoners is an emotive one for Palestinians, who view many of those incarcerated as heroes of the conflict with Israel.