A protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners outside Ofer prison.
(Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)
UPDATE: Ma’an reports that Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla have not yet decided whether to end their strike, which could impact the deal:
Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Ma’an that all prisoners must end the hunger strike within 72 hours, and not later refuse food, for the deal to hold.
Around 2,000 prisoners joined a mass hunger strike launched on April 17 to demand fair prison conditions, according to prisoners groups’ estimates.
Another group of prisoners held in administrative detention launched an earlier strike in protest at their detention without charge, including Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahla, 33, who have gone for 77 days without food.
Their lawyer Jamil Khatib told Ma’an that Diab and Halahla were informed of the deal earlier Monday. They were told the agreement includes their release at the end of their detention term but both refused to stop their strike unless they were immediately released, Khatib said.
On Monday evening, a relative of Halahla said the long-term hunger-strikers were still deciding on next steps. Prisoners society lawyer Jawad Bulous is heading to the prison hospitals to discuss the deal with hunger-strikers, minister Issa Qaraqe told reporters.
The AP reports:
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners agreed Monday to end a weekslong hunger strike after winning concessions from Israel to improve their conditions, the two sides announced.
The deal ended a strike in which prisoners had gone without food for up to 77 days, leaving several prisoners in life-threatening condition. It was the longest strike ever staged by Palestinians in Israeli custody. . .
Among their demands: permission to receive family visits from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, an end to solitary confinement and a halt to an Israeli policy of “administrative detention,” under which suspected militants are held for months, and sometimes years, without being charged. Israel has defended the policy as a necessary security measure.
According to a Palestinian negotiator, Israel agreed to allow prisoners from both the West Bank and Gaza to receive family visits. The visits from Gaza were halted in 2006 after Hamas-linked militants in Gaza captured an Israeli soldier. After the soldier was released in a prisoner swap last October, the Palestinians said the ban should be lifted.
He said Israel also agreed to halt its punitive policy of placing prisoners in solitary confinement, would allow prisoners to make phone calls to relatives and permit prisoners to pursue academic studies.
He spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
There was no word on any change to the administrative detentions.
The Shin Bet said in return, the prisoners pledged “to absolutely stop terror activity from inside Israeli jails.” It also said militant group’s commanders outside the jails made a commitment “to prevent terror activity.” It did not elaborate.