Palestinian Inmates Backtrack on Hunger Strike as Hunt for Last Two Fugitives Continues

Jack Khoury
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Gilboa prison near the escape site.
Gilboa prison near the escape site.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Jack Khoury

A hunger strike among 1,380 Palestinian inmates in several Israeli jails, set to begin on Friday, has been called off, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club said on Wednesday.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Club added that the decision was made after Israeli prison officials halted some of the punitive measures taken against inmates, including those from Islamic Jihad, following the escape of six captives last week

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The chairman of the Palestinian Prisoner's Club, Qadura Fares, said on Wednesday that the organization negotiated with senior security and Israel Prison Service officials in recent days and both sides agreed to go back to normal. 

In an interview with Asahms Radio, Fares said that beyond the prisoners' protests and the widespread public support among Palestinians, there is no doubt that the political atmosphere helped both sides make decisions to return to normal. The U.S. also helped the sides come to an agreement, he added.

The hunger strike was announced on Monday as part of a campaign against the recent treatment of inmates in the aftermath of the escape of six high-risk captives. 

According to the plan that has been called off for now, prisoners could have also attacked wardens and security officials in the Gilboa and Shita prisons, citing the conduct of prison staff towards the incarcerated and the "violent repression against them" as rationale.   

Last week, the security establishment said it is closely monitoring one Hamas prisoner on hunger strike who has been evacuated to an Israeli hospital in a critical condition. It fears that any deterioration in his condition could lead to further escalation.

Five of the escapees, all of whom have been accused or convicted of planning or carrying out terror attacks against Israelis, belong to Islamic Jihad. Four of the six have been found and apprehended by Israeli authorities since their escape. 

Following the escape, the Prison Service announced that it would be dispersing inmates who belong to the Islamic Jihad movement in prisons throughout the country. About 300 of them have been moved as of last week.

Islamic Jihad has warned Israel repeatedly against harming its inmates, saying it would be met with a fierce response. 

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