Palestinian Prisoners End Hunger Strike as Agreement Reached With Israeli Officials

Sources within the Palestinian Prisoners Club claim that agreement regulates administrative detainees, solitary confinement policy, and visits from family members residing in Gaza.

Israel Prison Services reported on Monday that Palestinian prisoners have agreed to end their hunger strike. Senior sources within the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club told Haaretz that an agreement was forged between the Israel Prison Services and the prisoners, containing three main chapters concerning administrative detainees, solitary confinement policy, and visits from family members residing in Gaza.

Earlier Monday, it was reported that a disagreement arose between the prisoner’s delegation and prison service officials at Ashkelon prison, concerning administrative detainees. According to the report, a senior Egyptian Intelligence official was summoned to Israel in order to resolve the disagreement. After hours of feverish negotiations that included intervention from the Egyptian Intelligence official, an agreement was reached and signed by the Israel Prison Service and prisoner representatives.

A Fatah Central Committee member, Azxam Al Ahmad, said that the agreement between the committee representing the prisoners and the Israel Prison Services responded to the prisoner’s demands. Al Ahmad, a resident of Cairo, said that he met with senior Egyptian officials that served as mediators for the negotiations. According to Ahmad, senior Egyptian Intelligence officials, Rafaat Shehata, and General Nader Al Asar led the mediation efforts.

Over the last few days, progress began on prisoner demands as the negotiations between prisoner representatives and Israeli officials advanced, in a bid to end the widespread hunger strike that has lasted nearly a month. Roughly 1,600 prisoners among the 4,600 prisoners held in Israel are participating in the strike. Three prisoners have refused to eat for more than 70 days, and concern for their lives has been raised.

Last week, the organization Physicians for Human Rights petitioned Prime Minsister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Health Ministry, the Israeli Medical Association, the Israel Prison Service, and the director of Assaf Harofeh Hospital, with demands to transfer hunger-striking prisoners to civilian hospitals. In the letter sent by Physicans for Human Rights, the organization expresses significant fears that considerations other than prisoner’s health were influencing Israel Prison Service policy, among them an attempt to put pressure on the prisoners to end the strike by refusing to transfer prolonged hunger-strikers to civilian hospitals.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement last week calling for the release of prisoners held on administrative detention, or allowing them to stand trial. Moon’s call joined that of the EU, which criticized Israel for the use of administrative detention and also called for Israel to allow the administrative detainees the right to family visits. The French Embassy in Israel also expressed concern over the deteriorating situation of some of the hunger-striking prisoners, and noted that administrative detention must be used only in severe and rare cases.

Last Tuesday, the Knesset approved the second and third reading of legislation proposed to arrange humane prison conditions for all prisoners in Israel, including security prisoners. The legislation merges a law proposed by Dov Khenin (Hadash) with a proposal offered by the Ministry of Public Security.

Palestinian rally May 12, 2012 (AP)