The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, urged Israel to make every effort to find, with the prisoners, an appropriate resolution to the hunger strike.
The UN agencies reminded Israel of its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, governing the protection of civilians in time of war, and other relevant human rights instruments providing for the protection of detainees and prisoners.
According to the Israeli Prison Service, more than 2,900 prisoners have joined the hunger strike that began on 15 August. The Palestinian Authority quotes a slightly higher figure. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross more than 8,000 prisoners are currently detained by Israel on security grounds. Of these, more than 90 are women and 360 are children, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Secretary-General Kofi Annan supported the statement and hopes that the matter will be resolved soon in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law, his spokesman said.
In New York earlier this week, the Bureau of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said prisoners were routinely subjected to “inhumane conditions of incarceration, including arbitrary and indiscriminate beatings, humiliating strip searches, solitary confinement for excessive periods of time, and severe restrictions on family visits.” It voiced particular distress at reports of continued use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment of the detainees.