Israel Mass Palestinian hunger strike in Israeli jails ends after visitation deal
Prisoners led by Marwan Barghouti halt protest as Israel announces it will allow a second family visit each month
A mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has been called to an end after 41 days as Israel offered a compromise deal to meet some of the strikers’ demands.
The deal – on the eve of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting – means approximately 800 prisoners, led by prominent Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti, will give up their protest in exchange for improved visitation rights.
It suggests a rare recent success on the Palestinian side, and comes despite the repeated insistence by Israeli ministers – not least public security minister Gilad Erdan – that they would not give in to any of the strikers’ demands.
The resolution comes amid reports that US president Donald Trump’s special envoy on the Middle East peace issue, Jason Greenblatt, discussed the strike with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.
Israeli prison service spokeswoman Nicole Englander said the protest ended after Israel concluded a deal with the Palestinian Authority and the Red Cross for prisoners to receive a second family visit each per month.
The prisoners’ two main demands had been for more frequent visits and for prisoners to be allowed to speak to their families on public phones under supervision.
More than 6,000 Palestinians are currently in prison for offences linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Charges range from stone throwing to weapons possession and attacks that killed or wounded Israeli civilians and soldiers.
The timing of the hunger strike coincided with the run up to the 50th anniversary of Israel’s seizure of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the 1967 six day war, which falls in early June.
The strike provoked widespread demonstrations among Palestinians in solidarity with the protesters and clashes with Israeli security forces.
Barghouti is the most high-profile Palestinian jailed in Israel. The leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement was convicted of murder and sentenced to five life terms in 2004 over the killing of Israelis during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Opinion polls have, however, repeatedly showed that many Palestinians would like Barghouti to be their next president and analysts believe the deal will improve his position in Palestinian politics.
Palestinian Authority prisoners’ affairs chief Issa Qaraqe said that the deal had been concluded after 20 hours of talks.
Qadoura Fares, who runs the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, said negotiations took place between Israeli officials and a committee of prisoners, including Barghouti.
The Israeli prison service, however, insisted the deal had been done not with prisoners’ representatives but with the Palestinian Authority and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
It comes too after the ICRC warned on Thursday that its doctors, who have been visiting the prisoners, were concerned about “potential irreversible health consequences”.
Palestinians rallied behind the hunger strikers as national heroes, relishing a rare break from deep divisions between two rival political groups, the Islamic militant group Hamas – which runs Gaza – and Fatah – which governs in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization, released a statement on Saturday, saying that the hunger strike had “prevailed”.
“This is an important step towards full respect of the rights of Palestinian prisoners under international law.
“It is also an indication of the reality of the Israeli occupation which has left no option to Palestinian prisoners but to starve themselves to achieve basic rights they are entitled to under international law,” the statement read.
- Palestinian territories
- Middle East and North Africa
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Source: Google News