Abbas warns of ´national disaster´ over hunger strikers (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) 05/13/12)
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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned on Sunday of a "national
disaster" if any of the 1,550 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike
in Israeli jails were to die.
Abbas spoke as two of the hunger strikers, Bilal Diab and Thaer
Halahla, entered their 75th day without eating, and after
international rights groups and governments said they were concerned
that prisoners could die if they continued to refuse food.
"The situation of the prisoners is extremely dangerous," Abbas told a
meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation´s executive
"Some of them face real harm, and that would be a national disaster
that no one can tolerate. I hope and pray to God that no one gets
hurt because it would be a major disaster."
The committee called on all Palestinians to observe a one-day fast on
Monday in solidarity with the prisoners.
Diab and Halahla are specifically protesting their jailing by Israeli
authorities without charge under a procedure known as administrative
The broader hunger strike by around 1,550 Palestinian prisoners is
intended to pressure Israeli prison authorities to end the use of
solitary confinement and ease a wide range of restrictions, including
on family visits and prisoner education.
Hamas deputy chief Mussa Abu Marzuk said that following Egyptian
intervention on the issue it had been close to resolution but talks
stalled "two days ago."
"There was an Israeli commitment to meet the demands of the hunger
striking prisoners, in particular on the issue of moving them out of
isolation and visits by the families of the prisoners," he told AFP.
"But there were disagreements among the Israelis after that and
nothing was achieved."
Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators gathered on Sunday outside the
West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim in a show of solidarity with he
prisoners. Israeli police said two of the Palestinians were arrested
for blocking a public road.
The hunger strike has attracted widespread support throughout the
Palestinian territories, and Abbas said he had raised the issue in
discussions with Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton.
"These prisoners have a right to justice, and we are talking about
the conditions of detention and the prison conditions that Israel is
trying to ignore," Abbas said. "The issue of the prisoners is the
most important issue we´re working on these days."
Palestinian sources say negotiations are under way with Israeli
representatives on a package of measures to ease conditions for the
4,700 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
The measures would include restarting family visits for prisoners
with relatives in Gaza, allowing detainees to resume studies and
moving some inmates out of solitary confinement.
A Palestinian official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity
said a key meeting of Israeli officials was taking place Sunday with
representatives of the Israel Prisons Service (IPS), the domestic
intelligence service Shin Bet and Israel´s government.
But an IPS spokeswoman said she had no knowledge of such a meeting.
(Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse. 05/13/12)
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