Forty days of hunger striking by hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israel came to an end Saturday after the detainees reached an agreement with prison officials, according to both sides.
According to reports in Israeli media – including the Haaretz newspaper, citing prison service officials – the deal will see the number of monthly family visits increased to two, from the current one a month.
The deal comes as Muslims around the world begin the holy month of Ramadan, during which many people fast.
According to figures from the Israeli Prison Service, some 1,100 prisoners took part in the strike initially, with hundreds joining in later. By the end, more than 800 prisoners were still on strike. Eighteen are in hospital for treatment.
The strike was led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader in jail for life after being convicted of murder.
“The prisoners win, they are suspending their strike,” said the headline on the Palestinian Maan news agency, a private outlet.
Palestinian officials Issa Qaraqi, head of the Prisoners’ Commission, and Qaddoura Faris, in charge of the Prisoner’s Club, confirmed that the prisoners have ended their fast after 20 hours of negotiations with the Israel Prisons Service (IPS), according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Barghouthi was involved in the talks, according to Maan and Israeli media.
The prisoners started their fast on April 17 demanding: better prison conditions; an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention without charge or trial; better treatment; easier access for visiting family members; and a commitment to keeping the prisoners in the West Bank, instead of Israel.
Public support for the strike had taken a violent turn in recent days, as family members and supporters vowed to escalate protests throughout the occupied territories if the prisoners’ demands were not met.
So far, two Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli soldiers amid the unrest that raged in the West Bank since the start of the strike.
There had been reports of strife between Barghouti’s supporters and President Mahmoud Abbas’ camp.
Barghouti is seen as a possible future successor to the Palestinian leadership.
There are some 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. The issue is a source of tensions between the sides. Palestinians often see those jailed, including those accused of violence, as political prisoners.
This week, US President Donald Trump went to Israel and the occupied West Bank, pledging to work towards a peace deal.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told members of his Fatah party on Thursday that he had raised the issue of the prisoners with Jason Greenblatt, the special United States peace envoy, during their last meeting in Ramallah and that he had asked Greenblatt to ask Israel to accept the prisoners’ demands, which he described as humanitarian.(dpa/NAN)