TEL AVIV (Jan. 5)
About 360 Arab inmates of the Ashkelon prison went on a hunger strike today, the 24th day of protests and strikes of various kinds to demand recognition as prisoners of war, better food, less solitary confinement and treatment by Gaza Strip physicians. Their complaints about poor prison conditions, and especially the food, were rejected by a delegation of the International Red Cross that inspected the prison recently.
The Red Cross said that while prison conditions could always stand improvement, they were appropriate and that the food, which includes fresh vegetables, was adequate and plentiful. The demand for POW status was rejected by a court on grounds that only soldiers captured in uniform bearing unit identification could be regarded as POWs.
Most of the prisoners at Ashkelon, which has a total inmate population of 450, are serving life sentences for a variety of terrorist acts and are maximum security prisoners. About a third are from the Gaza Strip, a third from the West Bank and the remainder from Jordan, Syria and other countries. Their protests initially drew support from Gaza residents who demonstrated last week. But the support ended after a delegation of Gaza notables headed by Mayor Rashid Shawa failed after a six-hour meeting with the prisoners to persuade them to end their strikes. (By Yitzhak Shargil)