Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are due to begin a hunger strike this week, in the biggest coordinated protest of its kind.
Paramilitary leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving time for murder, said 700 prisoners were joining him on the hunger strike, but the number could eventually rise to more than 2,000.
Barghouti is seen as the only Palestinian leader credibility with both Hamas and Fatah, and therefore the sole candidate to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. He was arrested in 2002 and given five life sentences.
The hunger strike, which could see prisoners being force-fed by Israeli military personnel, has been planned to coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the occupation, and includes both secular and Islamist prisoners.
It has the backing of the Palestinian leadership in both Gaza and the West Bank, including Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Organisers say that while Israel allows one family visit every two weeks, family members must apply for permits every time, and these are often refused. They are also asking for more phone-calls to family members.
A Hamas spokesman said: “We warn the Israel Prison Service against bringing any harm to the hunger strikers. Any delay in answering their just demands will explode the situation inside all prisons. All prisoners will unite in the face of all those who might harm prisoners and their dignity.”
Writing in the New York Times, Barghouti said a hunger strike was “the most peaceful form of resistance available,” adding that Israel sought to “break the spirit of prisoners… by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation”.
Israeli Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the strike was “motivated by internal Palestinian politics and therefore includes unreasonable demands,” in reference to the battle to succeed Mahmoud Abbas, who is due to step down shortly.
Erdan added: “I have instructed the prison service to act in any way to contain the strike within the walls of the prisons and the Israel police to prepare and provide any help needed to the prison service for any scenario that is likely to develop.”