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The medical residents at Sheba Medical Center who declared a hunger strike on Sunday called it off yesterday afternoon in the wake of pressure to do so from hospital officials and their families.

The residents had launched the hunger strike to protest Sunday's National Labor Court ruling that ordered them back to work. The court ruled that the resignations they had submitted a month earlier to protest their work conditions were illegal.

"We decided on a hunger strike as a protest move against the ruling that our resignations were illegal, after we had decried the agreement that worsened our work conditions," said Dr. Vered Dolberg, a resident at Sheba's internal medicine department who spoke on behalf of the hunger strikers.

"Following the request of the hospital director, the department heads and our families, we decided to stop the hunger strike," she added.

Earlier in the day, Sheba director Dr. Ze'ev Rotstein met with the hunger strikers and presented them with a legal opinion stating that hunger striking while treating patients was an illegal move liable to endanger lives. The opinion also said the hunger strike was incongruent with the Labor Court ruling prohibiting organized sanctions that were not coordinated through the Israel Medical Association.

Dolberg rejected the claim that the decision to stop the strike was the result of pressure, adding, "It's important for us to state that we are disappointed by the situation and will continue the struggle."