Israel Palestinians meet, strike talks ongoing (AP) Associated Press) By DIAA HADID JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/12/12 10:49 am ET)
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JERUSALEM – Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating through
Egyptian mediators to end a mass Palestinian hunger strike, officials
said Saturday. Later, an Israeli envoy is set to meet with the
Palestinian president about stalled peace talks.
Some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are on hunger
strike to demand better conditions and to put an end to detention
without trial. The Egyptian-brokered talks mark the first time that
substantive negotiations have been reported to be under way to defuse
the protest since it began weeks, and in some cases months, ago.
Palestinian officials say Egyptian mediators are trying to hash out
an agreement between the strikers and Israel. An Israeli official
confirmed talks were taking place but would not elaborate.
All requested anonymity, because of the matter´s sensitivity.
Egyptian officials weren´t immediately available for comment.
Two men, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, have been on strike for more
than 70 days. Both are members of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian
militant group that has killed hundreds in suicide bombings,
shootings and other attacks.
It is not clear whether Halhaleh and Diab were involved in any
militant activity because they are being held under "administrative
detention," a policy that can keep some Palestinian prisoners for
months — even years — without charges. Israel has defended
administrative detentions as a necessary tool to stop militant
According to prison officials, at least 1,600 of the 4,600
Palestinians held by Israel are refusing food. Palestinians say about
2,500 strikers are striking.
Israel is hesitant to clinch a deal with the prisoners, fearing it
will encourage more strikes. Many of the Palestinians striking have
been convicted of involvement in deadly attacks.
Israel´s prisons service says the striking Palestinians are under
constant medical supervision and are in stable condition.
Later Saturday, an Israeli envoy is expected to submit a letter to
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the possibility of
substantive peace talks, a senior Palestinian official said. The
modest exchange is the highest-level communication between the two
sides in months.
Yitzhak Molcho, a representative of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, will meet with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah,
the seat of the Palestinians´ government.
Molcho will hand over a written response to a note that Palestinian
negotiators gave to Netanyahu last month that sought to clarify their
positions if talks were to resume, the official said. He spoke
anonymously, citing the issue´s sensitivity.
An Israeli government spokesman declined to comment.
The communication by note demonstrates how thoroughly negotiations to
carve out an independent Palestinian state have collapsed. Four
months ago, preliminary meetings between Israeli and Palestinian
officials in the Jordanian capital Aman also stalled. (© 2012 The
Associated Press 05/12/12)
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