The Fatah Central Committee, considered the Palestinian movement’s top decision-making body, called on Thursday for all its members in Israeli prisons to join the hunger strike immediately. The resolution passed by the committee is purportedly binding on all healthy adult male Fatah members who are incarcerated in Israel.
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According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, more than 3,000 prisoners are taking part in the strike and 1,000 others are expected to join in the wake of the Central Committee resolution. The resolution was the result of negotiations with young Fatah activists, amid what some participants called the wider Fatah leadership’s lukewarm support for the hunger strike. The Fatah movement, with which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is affiliated, controls the Palestinian Authority.
One Fatah activist, who spoke to Haaretz on the condition of anonymity, said the movement has been divided over the hunger strike since it was launched on April 17. In the past week, however, and particularly after the Israel Prison Service video showing strike leader Marwan Barghouti eating secretly in his cell, there have been increasing calls for unity.
“Obviously some people are more supportive than others, but in the face of Israel’s attempts to frame the strike as the personal whim of one individual, Marwan Barghouti, Fatah had to pass a resolution, and it did,” said the activist. Officials in the Palestinian Commission for Prisoners' Affairs expressed satisfaction with the Fatah Central Committee announcement and its timing.
Fatah activists and officials in the Palestinian Authority recognize that the hunger strike could precipitate unrest in the West Bank, including confrontations with Israeli forces, and that a show of unity will help prove that the demands of the hunger strikers are based on humanitarian grounds.
In a related development, Haaretz has learned that Israeli security figures have reached out to some of the hunger-striking prisoners in an attempt to undermine their trust in Barghouti. Palestinian sources say that most of the prisoners made it clear that all negotiations must go through Barghouti himself.
A senior Palestinian figure said that Israeli security figures met on Wednesday in Nitzan prison with some of the strikers. According to the Palestinian source, Israel Prison Service and Israeli security officials are beginning to use rhetoric that suggests an agreement to end the hunger strike is possible, albeit not in the short term. The Palestinian source said the prisoners told the security officials that the efforts to undermine Barghouti’s standing were a failure, and that even if he broke his hunger strike, he and the rest of the Palestinian prisoner leaders were the address for any serious negotiations.