Palestinians held a general strike yesterday in solidarity with hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike for 11 days, with some officials calling it the largest in years. Stores were closed and roads empty across the West Bank, the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel for 50 years.
In the city of Ramallah, several dozen people gathered at a tent set up in a central square where a protest march was to begin.
"This general strike is unprecedented in years," said Khalil Rizeq of the Union of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce.
"All Palestinian industries, such as transport, bakeries, stores, all of the private sector and commercial institutions are participating."
The strike was called in all cities in the West Bank, with only doctors and students nearing graduation excluded.
Meanwhile, Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit on Wednesday urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to intervene with Israeli authorities to halt their "abuse" of Palestinian prisoners.
Abul Gheit sent a letter to ICRC president Peter Maurer requesting "the committee (ICRC) urgently intervene with Israeli authorities to stop the various abuses being committed against those prisoners of war", the Arab League said.
Abul Gheit's letter is part of contacts "with international actors to stop violations against Palestinian prisoners of war in Israeli prisons", the League said in a statement.
He called for the ICRC to demand Israel "ensure treating Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike according to norms and standards set in international humanitarian law".
The Arab League chief sent a similar letter on Tuesday to United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres.
Palestinian officials say some 1,500 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike that began on April 17, with detainees ingesting only water and salt. Israeli authorities have put the number at around 1,200. Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Around 500 are being held under Israel's system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.
The hunger strike is being led by Palestinian leader and prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, of 2000 to 2005.