UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians asked the International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday to intervene in a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners pressing for "legitimate rights" which they say are being denied by Israel.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told the Security Council that a peaceful effort is needed to compel Israel to comply with international law and respect human rights "to avert the dangerous consequences of deterioration of this situation."
"We believe that the ICRC can play a positive, facilitating role, and urge all necessary efforts in this regard," he said.
Mansour saluted the more than 1,000 prisoners on hunger strike and said they were protesting what he called their "inhumane treatment and torture by Israel" and calling attention to the over 6,500 Palestinians imprisoned or arbitrarily detained.
He singled out strike leader Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed during the second Palestinian uprising who has been in prison for 15 years.
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon called Barghouti "a terrorist and a murderer" who had a fair and open trial. He held up a photo of one of his victims, mother-of-two Yoela Chen, and told the council: "Glorifying terrorists like Barghouti not only distances us from peace, but dishonors the memories of the innocent victims."
The strike has been gaining traction because Barghouti, who is serving multiple life terms in prison after Israel found him guilty of involvement in the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk, is widely expected to run for president once Mahmoud Abbas is out of the picture.
Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said Tuesday he believes the strike is politically motivated and that the prisoners have no legitimate complaints. He said the government will not negotiate with the prisoners.
Jesus Serrano, a spokesman for the ICRC in Jerusalem, said the organization is closely monitoring the situation, but as a neutral party, it cannot intervene.
"We cannot support or condemn the hunger strike or mediate between the parties," he said. "We urge for both sides to find a solution as soon as possible."
He said the ICRC would continue its mission of monitoring prisoner conditions and the health of striking prisoners and relay messages from prisoners to their families.
Associated Press writer Josef Federman contributed to this report from Jerusalem.