Israel, Palestinian Prisoners on Verge of Deal to End Hunger Strike

Palestinian Prisoner Association says Israel will present deal that will include references to administrative detention, solitary confinement, and visiting permits for Gazan families.

A member of the Fatah Central Committee revealed Sunday that Israel was on the verge of signing an agreement with the Palestinian Prisoner's Association to end a months-long hunger strike.

Azam al-Ahmad indicated in an interview with Palestinian media outlet Maan that he arrived in Cairo under orders from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to reach an agreement over the issue of the prisoners. Included in the reported deal was the demand to cancel the policy of solitary confinement as well as granting visiting permits to the families of imprisoned Palestinians from Gaza.

Sources in the Palestinian Prisoner Association told Haaretz  that the agreement formed by the Israel Prison Services will be presented to the group on Monday.

The sources also stated that the agreement will include three main clauses relating to administrative detention, solitary confinement and granting visiting permits to families from Gaza.

Al-Ahmad also that he had met several Egyptian officials in Cairo, who are mediating the case on behalf several Palestinians on hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, including senior intelligence official Raafat Shehata, and General Nader al-Assad.

The two were heavily involved in talks to release Gilad Shalit, and Shehata himself was the one to bring Shalit from Hamas to Israel at Gazas Rafah crossing.

Over the weekend, Haaretz reported progress regarding talks between prisoners and the Israel Prison service, including the lifting of sanctions, in place since before the Gilad Shalit deal, that prohibited academic studies in prison, as well as books and other writing materials. The main points of discussion that remain are visits for prisoners from family members residing in Gaza, and extended solitary confinement.

Representatives of the Palestinian Prisoners Club reported that hunger-striking prisoners are receiving an outpouring of support from among the Palestinian public in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, as well as from human rights organizations and left-wing activists.

On Friday and Saturday, processions were held in Umm al-Fahm, Kfar Kana, and Haifa, during which some youths declared the start of a three day hunger strike of their own, a display of solidarity with the prisoners. Political organizations from both sides of the Green Line issued a public statement of support for the prisoners, especially for prisoners held in administrative detention.

The public manifesto was signed by political parties Hadash, Balad, National Union, The Palestinian Peoples party, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, among others. The immediate demand to the Israeli government is the release of all administrative detainees, and all prisoners, those on hunger-strikes and those who arent, read the statement.

Also, we are calling for the end of the policy of administrative detention, as a method for arrest without trial, based on secret information not shared with prisoners or layers. This policy is not in line with basic standards of justice, continued the statement.

The statement also accused the Israel Prison Service of ignoring the demands of long-time prisoners to end extended solitary confinement, and permit visits from family members residing in Gaza. The statement also noted that the hunger strike is not being carried out only as a struggle for prisoners, but as part of the national struggle to end the occupation of Palestine as well.

Hunger strike - AP - May 13, 2012