Palestinian prisoners end hunger strike following agreement with Israel (WASHINGTON POST) By Karin Brulliard JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/14/12)
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JERUSALEM – Israeli and Palestinian officials announced Monday that
more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners had agreed to end a nearly
month-long hunger strike in exchange for concessions by Israel,
including a modification to its practice of detention without charge
The prisoners — all jailed in Israeli military prisons on suspicion
or convictions of terror-related activity — agreed to “completely
halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons,” Israel’s domestic
security agency, the Shin Bet, said in a statement.
But it was unclear Monday night whether the deal, which Israeli
officials said was mediated by Egypt and Jordan, would end the fasts
of the eight detainees who have been on the longest hunger strikes.
An attorney for three prisoners who have been fasting for more than
seven weeks said they would continue. Two of those prisoners, Bilal
Diab and Thaer Halahleh, have not eaten for 77 days, and human rights
organizations say they are near death.
The deal came one day before Palestinians are to observe a national
day of mourning over Israel’s establishment 64 years ago, and
officials on both sides feared that tensions over the prisoners’
strike — or the possible deaths of the prisoners who are in life-
threatening situations — could trigger violence during the annual
Officials on both sides said that under the terms of the deal, Israel
agreed to end solitary confinement and allow prisoners from the
coastal Gaza Strip to receive visits from immediate relatives, as is
allowed for prisoners from the West Bank. Family visits from Gaza
were suspended in 2006, after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken
hostage and transferred to Gaza by Palestinian militants. Shalit was
freed last fall in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian
prisoners, but the family-visit policy did not change.
The officials said Israel also agreed to free about 320 prisoners who
are being held without charge or trial in administrative detention,
provided they finish their current six-month detention terms and no
new evidence against them surfaces.
Administrative detention, which can be renewed indefinitely, is a key
focus of the detainees who have been on hunger strike the longest.
Critics say Israel uses it punitively and, by withholding evidence
from both detainees and their lawyers, prevents them from mounting a
proper defense. Israel says divulging that information could expose
informants and jeopardize national security.
Sahar Francis, director of the prisoners’ rights organization
Addameer, said the concessions granted by Israel amounted to a
success for the prisoners. But the change to administrative detention
is vague, she said.
“What’s the difference?” she said. “I’m skeptical.”
Jamil Khatib, a lawyer who represents three administrative detainees —
Diab, Halahleh and Jafar Izzedine, who has been fasting for 53 days —
said they did not think the prisoners who agreed to the deal
“They denied any proposals that didn’t give them the chance to be
released right now,” Khatib said of the men he represents. “They will
not end their hunger strike until they will be freed.”
The mass hunger strike, which began April 17, was at least partially
inspired by Khader Adnan, an administrative detainee who was granted
an early release after a hunger strike of 66 days this year. Another
such detainee, Hana Shalabi, was also released after fasting for 40
Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court turned down an appeal requesting
the release of Diab and Halahleh. Like Adnan and Shalabi, both are
alleged members of Islamic Jihad, an Islamist militant group that
fires rockets from Gaza onto southern Israel.
Aziz Halahleh, Thaer Halahleh’s father, said Monday that his son
was “very determined to continue his hunger strike.”
Hassan Abed Rabo, a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of
Detainees and Ex-Detainees, said Israel had also agreed to transfer
the bodies of 100 Palestinians who were killed fighting the Israelis
and buried inside the Jewish state. An Israeli official, who was not
authorized to release additional details about the deal, confirmed
Israeli officials portrayed the deal as a gesture of goodwill to
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had warned that the hunger
strikes could spark unrest.
“It is our hope that this decision will serve to build confidence
between the parties and further peace,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a statement.
The prisoner issue is deeply emotional for Palestinians, most of whom
have relatives who are or have been incarcerated in Israeli prisons.
Palestinians said at least 2,500 prisoners participated in the hunger
strikes. Special correspondent Samuel Sockol contributed to this
report. (© 2010 The Washington Post Company 05/14/12)
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