Israel's Prison Service released footage on Sunday that it says shows the leader of a mass Palestinian hunger strike breaking his fast, a claim dismissed by the Palestinians as an attempt to undermine the open-ended strike, now in its 21st day. Assaf Librati, a spokesman for the prison service, said strike organizer and Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti ate a candy bar on May 5 and cookies on April 27. He said surveillance was increased and Barghouti was caught on film eating. Footage aired by Israeli media shows a prisoner sitting down fully clothed on a toilet unwrapping something and putting it in his mouth. Other footage shows a prisoner eating something near a sink. Qadoura Fares, who heads an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners, cast doubt on the footage, saying Barghouti is being held in solitary confinement and has no access to food, the AP reports.
Israeli officials say Barghouti retrieved the food from a hiding place and then hid the wrappers when he was done, Haaretz reports. Barghouti, a leader of the second Palestinian uprising, is serving five life terms after being convicted by an Israeli court of directing two shooting attacks and a bombing that killed five people. Barghouti, who disputed the court's jurisdiction and did not mount a defense, has been in prison since 2002. Polls suggest that the 58-year-old is the most popular choice among Palestinians to succeed 82-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel holds about 6,500 Palestinians on charges related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and says 890 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike. Palestinians say the strike is an attempt to improve conditions inside the jails and gain more family visits. Israeli officials have dismissed the strike as a bid by Barghouti to burnish his credentials in an internal Palestinian power struggle. A Palestinian activist leader says the strike will continue, per the New York Times. (Read more Israel and Palestinians stories.)