Tue, May 15, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Hunger strikers mull deal with Israel

AFP, Ramallah, Palestinian Territories

Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails are weighing a package of measures easing their conditions in exchange for ending their protest, a source said yesterday.

“The prisoners are looking at the deal that was agreed in Cairo, only the prisoners can decide,” a Palestinian source close to the Egyptian-brokered negotiations with Israel said. “It’s the leaders of the prisoners who have the key, to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

Some 1,550 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike, including two detainees who yesterday entered their 76th day without food.

They are calling on Israel to ease restrictions on family visits and prisoner education, and an end to both solitary confinement and the use of administrative detention, a procedure under which suspects can be held indefinitely without charge.

Late on Sunday, a source confirmed that a deal regarding their demands had been hammered out in Cairo.

“A deal on the question of the prisoners was agreed in Cairo, but it has to be approved by the detainees,” the source said, indicating the prison administration would meet with the detainees’ representatives yesterday “to present them with the accord.”

Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman refused to confirm a deal had been reached, and the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to comment on the matter.

An Israeli official told public radio on Sunday night that the deal would allow Gaza-based relatives to visit prisoners and would offer some concessions on solitary confinement, possibly moving certain detainees back into the general population.

The mass hunger strike has widespread support, with -Palestinian activists holding daily demonstrations across Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Sunday warned of a “national disaster” if any of the hunger strikers died, saying they were simply demanding “justice.”

“These prisoners have a right to justice, and we are talking about the conditions of detention and prison conditions that Israel is trying to ignore,” he said. “The issue of the prisoners is the most important issue we’re working on these days.”

The mass hunger strike comes after individual prisoners launched their own protests earlier this year in protest over being held without charge in administrative detention.

The procedure allows an individual held without charge for periods of up to six months, which can be renewed indefinitely. Some detainees have spent years in jail under such orders.

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