Sources close to hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners have reported having some of their requests met. Haaretz has learned that a committee appointed by the Commissioner of the Israel Prison Service has agreed to release some Palestinian prisoners from solitary confinement, including Mahmoud Issa, who has spent more time in solitary confinement and has not seen his family for a longer period than any other Palestinian jailed for security-related offenses.
Issa, 44, of the West Bank village of Anata, has been jailed since 1993. He was sentenced to three life sentences for his part in abducting and murdering Border Policeman Nissim Toledano and attempting to murder two other soldiers.
According to sources within the Palestinian Prisoner’s Association, similar agreements have been reached regarding other prisoners held in solitary confinement. Agreements have yet to be made concerning three long-time prisoners, Hassan Salameh, Ibrahim Hamid, and Abdullah Barghouti.
According to sources, it is still unclear if prisoners taken out of isolation will be held with other prisoners jailed for security-related offenses, or in a special ward designated only for them.
The Israeli Prison Services say it is willing to cancel some of the sanctions dating back to before the Gilad Shalit deal, including the prohibition against continuing academic studies, keeping books and writing materials, and other sanctions that affected prisoner’s day to day lives. Agreements have yet to be reached, however, concerning solitary confinement, and visits of family members residing in Gaza.
According to Palestinian sources, the issue of family visits from Gaza does not solely depend on the Israeli prison services, but rather on other security entities as well. Because a decision has yet to be reached on the matter, prisoners are continuing in their hunger strike. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Association has also reported that it expects positive developments regarding prisoners held without trials, specifically Balal Diab and Tair Halala, who have been hunger-striking for over two months. On Monday, the High Court of Justice rejected their petition against the use of administrative detention, but the court recommended reviewing their detention conditions following the conclusion of the existent warrants against them.
The public struggle for the hunger-striking prisoners has gained momentum as of late. Two days ago, Palestinian activists contacted Catherine Ashton, the European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and brought the issue to her attention. Dozens of activists blocked the entrance to the UN facility in Ramallah on Wednesday, demanding that the international organization intervene and force Israel to comply with the Geneva Convention regulations regarding rights of prisoners.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), released an official statement expressing concern for the medical situation of six of the hunger-striking prisoners, among them Halala. “We are pushing for the authorities involved to transfer the six prisoners to a hospital without delay, so that their medical situation can be continuously monitored, and they can be attended to by certified doctors and nurses specializing in the required treatments,” said Pedro Schaerer, head of the ICRC’s envoy in Israel and the occupied territories.
The organization “Physicians for Human Rights” wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Health Minister, and the heads of the Israel Prison Service, requesting that the hunger-striking prisoners be transferred immediately to hospitals. The organization claimed that hunger-striking prisoners are subject to neglect by prison doctors, as well as verbal abuse from prison guards and doctors alike.
Israel Prison Services reported that it has no intentions to respond to baseless claims made by representatives of the organization, meant to “tarnish the names of professional and dedicated Israeli Prison Service medical personnel, that are concerned only with the lives and safety of the prisoners.” Regarding contact with the prisoners, Israel Prison Services made no comment.