Palestinian prisoners end hunger strike / Israel says inmates have signed deal that should allow them more visiting rights and better conditions in jails (GUARDIAN UK) Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem 05/15/12)
GUARDIAN UK Articles-Index-Top
Israel delivered significant concessions to end a mass hunger strike
by around 2,000 Palestinian prisoners on Monday, in a deal that was
hailed as a victory by Palestinian leaders on the eve of the most
symbolic day in their calendar.
Under the agreement, which was signed following mediation by Egypt
and Jordan, Israel will end solitary confinement for all prisoners
and allow around 400 prisoners from Gaza to receive family visits. It
agreed to discuss improvements to prison conditions, such as access
to televisions and telephone calls.
Prisoners on administrative detention orders – Israel´s term for
imprisonment without charge or trial, the key issue behind the hunger
strike – will not have their terms renewed without fresh information
or evidence being brought before a military judge.
In return, Palestinian prisoners´ leaders have "signed a commitment
to completely halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons",
including recruitment, practical support, funding and co-ordination
of operations, according to a statement released by the Israeli
security agency, Shin Bet.
An Israeli government official acknowledged that Israel had "gone the
extra mile" in agreeing the terms to end the protest, but added the
deal was intended to be an "inducement" to the Palestinian leadership
to return to peace talks.
Veteran Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi applauded the deal. "The
hunger strikers´ courage is magnificently inspiring, and their
selflessness deeply humbling. They have truly demonstrated that non-
violent resistance is an essential tool in our struggle for freedom,"
she said in a statement.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, said: "In
response to a request by [the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas],
Israel has negotiated the end of the strike. It is our hope that this
gesture by Israel will serve to build confidence between the parties
and further peace."
The deal comes a week after the realignment of the Israeli coalition
government towards the political centre, which has prompted
speculation that Israel´s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, may be
more open to serious peace talks with the Palestinians. The record of
his government for the past three years has been to talk about
negotiations without making any recent gestures to advance them. The
agreement to end the hunger strike was cast by Israeli officials as a
Around 2,500 prisoners joined the hunger strike after it began as a
mass protest on 17 April, according to Palestinian human rights
groups. A handful of prisoners had been refusing food for a longer
period. Two, who had been on hunger strike for 77 days, were believed
to be close to death, and six others were in a critical condition.
The IPS said that 1,550 prisoners were taking part in the protest
under medical supervision, and that no life had been in danger.
The hunger strike sparked widespread sympathy protests and
demonstrations across the West Bank and Gaza among a population in
which most families have direct experience of imprisonment.
Abbas had warned that solidarity action could spiral out of control
in the event of a prisoner´s death, and Tony Blair, the former
British prime minister who is now envoy for the Middle East Quartet,
warned of "serious implications for stability and security conditions
on the ground".
Without a deal it was feared that protests would escalate on Nakba
Day on Tuesday, when Palestinians mourn the loss of their land in
The two prisoners who had refused food for the longest period, Tha´er
Halahleh and Bilal Diab, have been imprisoned for 23 months and nine
months respectively on administrative detention orders. Both are
members of Islamic Jihad.
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon had called on Israel to
either put administrative detainees on trial or release them.
The maximum period of administrative detention is six months, but
that can be renewed indefinitely by a military judge. Under the terms
of Monday´s deal Israel has agreed that such detentions will not be
extended without the submission of additional intelligence. However,
all evidence will continue to be secret.
The first prisoner to embark on hunger strike in the current round of
protest was Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan, who was released
almost a month ago after 66 days of refusing food.
The hunger strike was one of the biggest prisoners´ protests staged
by Palestinians. (guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY