Israel seeks deal with Palestinian hunger strikers (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Shatha Yaish 05/10/12)
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Israel´s prison service has offered to ease restrictions on
Palestinian prisoners in a bid to end a mass hunger strike that has
left several detainees close to death, sources told AFP on Thursday.
Just under 1,600 Palestinian prisoners are currently refusing food in
a wide-ranging protest against solitary confinement, detention
without charge and restrictions on family visits, education and
The strike has drawn international attention, with the European Union
and United Nations expressing concern. Two of those protesting, Bilal
Diab and Thaer Halahla, marked their 72nd day without food on
But an official with Palestinian prisoners´ rights group Addameer
told AFP on Thursday that negotiations between prisoners and the
Israel Prison Service (IPS) appeared to be making progress.
"According to what we have learned from the prisoners, there was a
meeting last night in Nafha prison (in southern Israel) between the
IPS and leaders of the hunger strike," she said, suggesting an end to
the hunger strike could be imminent.
"There might be a positive response in the next few days."
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the IPS
appeared to have "agreed to allow visits for families from Gaza," and
to revoke a range of restrictions on prisoners, including a ban on
education and various privileges.
And she added that an agreement on moving prisoners out of solitary
confinement was also on the table.
"On solitary confinement, in the meeting before this one the IPS
offered to move all except for three out of 19 prisoners," she
said. "The leaders of the strike refused, and said it´s all or
nothing. After the meeting yesterday, we have indications that IPS
might have agreed on it."
IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizman confirmed the Nafha meeting, saying it
was part of an ongoing process of consultations between detainees and
a committee examining prison conditions.
"There was a meeting at Nafha prison, but it´s not the only one," she
"We are holding meetings with the prisoners all the time, talking to
But she declined to comment on specific proposals or decisions,
saying the discussions were ongoing.
"I won´t comment on the decisions that were reached. On the subject
of solitary confinement, what was decided was that a committee would
be set up to examine each particular case on its merits."
Israeli media reported signs of a deal, with public radio saying
sources suggested the strike could be over "in a week to 10 days."
The Haaretz newspaper said the IPS had offered to remove some
prisoners from solitary confinement, allow prisoners to take classes
and remove a ban on books.
It said that no agreement had been reached on allowing relatives in
Gaza to visit prisoners, and that disagreements remained about moving
three prisoners out of solitary confinement.
But Qaddura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners´ Club, which
tracks the well-being of Palestinians in Israeli jails, poured cold
water on talk of a deal.
The discussions "are only exploratory rounds by the IPS, there are no
real negotiations," he told AFP.
The hunger strike has widespread support among Palestinians, and
demonstrations have been held in solidarity with the prisoners across
the West Bank and Gaza.
On Thursday, around 50 protesters gathered outside the Red Cross
headquarters to call on the organisation to support the prisoners,
while another 50 protested outside the offices of the European Union
in east Jerusalem.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas also raised the fate of the
prisoners during discussions with the UN´s Middle East peace envoy
Robert Serry, a statement from the UN official´s office said.
"President Abbas and Mr. Serry both agreed on the urgency of
resolving this issue immediately," the statement said. (Copyright ©
2012 Agence France Presse. 05/10/12)
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