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Ten Palestinian prisoners participating in the mass hunger strike in Israeli jails were placed under medical supervision as their conditions worsened, officials said yesterday.

The 10 men are among 1,500 to 2,500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to demand better conditions and an end to detention without trial.

The hunger strike involves a quarter to a half of all Palestinians held in Israeli jails, estimated at some 4,600 people. Most them began refusing food 19 days ago, but a smaller number have been striking for longer, from periods of time ranging from 40 to almost 70 days.

Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Prison Service, said the 10 were transferred to a prison clinic for medical supervision. Weizman did not say when they were transferred or what medical treatment they are currently receiving.

Sahar Francis of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group, said the men were moved at different times last week. She said the men under medical supervision were those who had been on hunger strike the longest.

Another prisoner, Bilal Diab, was moved to a civilian hospital last week. He has refused food for 68 days so far.

The prisoners' chief demand is a halt to administrative detention. They are also demanding an end to solitary confinement, and reinstating family visits from Gaza. They also have smaller demands, such as being allowed to take a photo with their families once a year, instead of just once during their prison term.

So far, Israeli prison authorities have responded by isolating the hunger strikers, denying them family visits and engaging with those prisoners who are not on strike.

The prisoners' conditions is one of the most emotive issues for Palestinians. They are seen as heroes, regardless of the reason for their detention.

Leading members of Hamas in Gaza have warned that if any of the prisoners die while on hunger strike, they will retaliate.

This wave of strikes appears inspired by protests carried out by Palestinian prisoners Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi earlier this year. Adnan refused food for 66 days to demand an end to his incarceration without trial, while Shalabi refused food for 43 days.

Adnan and Shalabi both belong to Islamic Jihad. Adnan was released on April 17, while Shalabi was released at the beginning of April.