Hamas Prisoners End Hunger Strike, but Israeli Prison Service Denies Compromise

Palestinians say Israel agreed to stop 'humiliating' searches in return for conclusion of two-day hunger strike by 260 Hamas prisoners.

Ilan Assayag

Two hundred and sixty Hamas members imprisoned in Israel announced Saturday that they were ending a two-day hunger strike.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said the prisoners agreed to stop rejecting food after reaching an understanding with the Israel Prison Service according to which they would be returned to Nafha and Eshel prisons and the practice of “humiliating” searches ended.

The Israel Prison Service denied that any understandings had been reached to end the strike.

The Hamas-affiliated website Arsala quoted a spokesman for the prisoners, Abdel Rahman Shadid, as saying that the understandings also included improvements to the conditions at Nafha Prison.

These included reducing the number of prisoners in each cell and allowing inmates to spend more time in the exercise yard.

Shadid was also quoted as saying that Israel had agreed to return to Nafha Prison within three months a leader of the Hamas prisoners, Mohammad Arman, who had been transferred to Hadarim Prison in central Israel.

Other prisoners were also to be transferred, according to Arsala.

The hunger strike began on Thursday after the Israel Prison Service evacuated two wings housing Hamas prisoners, one at Nafha Prison, north of Mitzpe Ramon and one at Eshel Prison, south of Be’er Sheva, and transfer them to other prisons throughout the country.

The agency said it took the moves in the wake of intelligence indicating that prisoners in Nafha and Eshel were communicating with each other using go-betweens and smuggled cellphones.

The IPS said searches of the prison disclosed a number of phones as well as written material suggesting collusion among the inmates. The agency said it did not know what was being planned and would continue to investigate.

The prisoners who were transferred included senior figures in Hamas.

Meanwhile, 40 prisoners from the Popular Front who had launched a hunger strike last month announced that they would continue their strike in solidarity with Bilal Kayed, an administrative detainee who has been on a hunger strike since June 15.

Kayed finished serving 14 and a half years in prison in June, and was immediately detained by administrative order.

The Be’er Sheva District Court is to hand down its decision today on a petition by Physicians for Human Rights to release Kayed from handcuffs in his hospital bed.

The petition states that considering the poor state of Kayed’s health and the fact that he is guarded by three prison guards and by other means, he cannot constitute a flight risk or danger.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club Kayed’s condition is deteriorating daily, he is very weak and internal organs could be damaged if he continues to refuse saline and any liquid other than water.

According to figures released over the past few days by various prisoners’ groups, 574 Palestinians were arrested in July, among the 111 minors, 12 women and one girl.

Sixteen of the prisoners are from the Gaza Strip, among them fishermen arrested for fishing in a prohibited area as well as merchants and other civilians who were arrested at the Erez Crossing between the Strip and Israel.

According to the figures, 6,000 Palestinians have been arrested since the latest round of violence began in October.