UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged a swift solution to resolve the plight of Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike and held without charge.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban was deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating condition of the hunger strikers, especially Samer Issawi.
Issawi’s health has severely deteriorated after an on-again, off-again hunger strike stretching more than 200 days.
The 35-year-old Palestinian is set to be sentenced this month for violating the terms of an earlier release from prison and suffered a new setback on Tuesday when a Jerusalem judge rejected his request to be freed on bail.
The UN boss said Palestinian detainees should be charged and face trial or be promptly released, Nesirky said.
“The secretary-general urges for a solution to be reached without delay in order to resolve the prisoners’ plight and preserve calm,” he said.
Israel is holding about 4,500 Palestinians for charges ranging from throwing stones to undertaking deadly militant attacks.
Their incarceration is an emotional issue for Palestinians, who see them as heroes of their struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation.
Ban expressed his concerns to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a telephone conversation on Monday, Nesirky said.
He also calls on Israel to ensure family visiting rights for prisoners and to respect the human rights of detainees, the spokesman said.
The two leaders also discussed the need for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and the situation in the Middle East, especially the impact of the Syrian conflict and concerns it has raised for Israel’s security, Nesirky said.
“The secretary-general stressed that it is urgent for Israelis and Palestinians to re-engage in a serious peace effort with effective international support, and to create a conducive environment to that end,” he said.
The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Netanyahu while he continues to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
The Palestinians claim both areas, along with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, for their future state.
The statement on the converation between Ban and Netanyahu was released after the Israeli leader’s surprise announcement that a dovish rival, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, would join the next government as justice minister in charge of peace efforts with the Palestinians.
Her appointment could signal a new approach to peacemaking by Netanyahu.