Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails agreed on Monday to end a mass hunger strike after winning concessions from Israel to improve their conditions, the Shin Bet security service announced.
The Israel Prison Service said the inmates are expected to begin eating again in the next few hours.
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Some 1,600 prisoners, a third of the 4,800 Palestinians held by Israel, have been refusing food since April 17 in a protest against the conditions of their incarceration.
Rally in Ma'ale Adumim in support of inmates (Photo: AFP)
The Palestinian minister for Prisoner Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said that Palestinian prisoner leaders signed the deal on Monday afternoon at an Israeli prison in Ashkelon. The Shin Bet and Palestinian terror groups confirmed the deal, which was brokered by Egyptian mediators.
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 terrorists in Gaza captured Gilad Shalit. 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.
The Shin Bet said that in return the prisoners pledged “to absolutely stop terror activity from inside Israeli jails.” It also said terror group’s commanders outside the jails made a commitment “to prevent terror activity.”
The Shin Bet said the agreement does not obligate Israel to allow the prisoners to pursue academic studies, as they demanded. Their demand for access to additional television channels was also rejected, according to the security service. However, two Russian channels will be replaced with two Arabic TV channels.
Two men launched the strike on Feb. 27, and were joined by hundreds of others on April 17.
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 terrorists are held without being charged. Israel has defended the policy as a necessary security measure.
During the strike, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders warned that the death of any one of the prisoners could trigger a backlash that might slip out of control.
Israel feared the death of a prisoner would lead to harsh condemnation from the international community.
Raanan Ben-Tzur, Reuters contributed to the report
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