Palestinian prisoners end mass hunger strike

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A Palestinian woman gestures talking to an member of Palestinian security forces after protesters were asked to stop a demonstration gathering Hamas supporters to express solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails on June 20, 2014 in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Photo: AFP - Hazem Bader)

Published Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dozens of Palestinian prisoners who had refused food for 62 days have suspended their hunger strike after reaching a deal with the Israel Prisons Service, their lawyer told AFP.

The prisoners began refusing food on April 24 in protest at being held by Israel without charge or trial under a controversial procedure called administrative detention, which can be indefinitely extended for years.

"The strikers, who have reached an agreement with the Israeli prison authorities, have decided to suspend their action with the approach of Ramadan," Ashraf Abu Snena said, referring to the Muslim fasting month which begins this weekend.

Qadoura Fares, a Palestinian official acting as an advocate for the prisoners, said the hunger-strike had been suspended overnight with Israel agreeing to remove punishments imposed on the inmates and to other measures affecting them in prison.

"We are not talking about a big, clear victory in the procedural, practical sense, but we are talking an improvement in addressing the issue of administrative detention," Fares said, without giving further details.

Israel and the prisoners would also "continue the dialogue over administrative detention," he told reporters.

Israel confirmed the agreement.

"The hunger strike was suspended overnight," Israel Prisons Service (IPS) spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP.

She said the sides has reached a "short-term agreement" which allowed for the hunger-strikers, all of whom are being treated in hospital due to their rapidly failing health, to suspend their action.

"But this arrangement does not involve any suspension or cancellation of the use of administrative detention," Weizman said.

The IPS put the number of hunger-strikers at 75 when the deal was reached.

Some of the hunger-strikers were kept alive with vitamins and sugars, but others took only water for the duration, according to prisoners' rights group Addameer.

Administrative detention is a procedure dating back to the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948) under which prisoners can be held for six-month periods, which can be indefinitely renewed by a court order.

Around 200 of the 5,000 or so Palestinians held by Israel are administrative detainees, although that number looks set to double as Israel presses a major arrest operation in the West Bank following the disappearance of three settlers.

So far, at least 371 Palestinians have been arrested -- 280 of them Hamas members -- with most expected to be slapped with administrative detention orders.

The Palestinian leadership and human rights groups have denounced the use of administrative detention, urging international pressure on Israel to scrap the measure.

Earlier this month, UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the deteriorating health of the hunger-strikers and demanded that Israel either charge or release them.

In an attempt to prevent further hunger strikes, the Israeli government is planning to pass a controversial law which would allow the authorities to force-feed prisoners.

The draft law, also denounced by human rights groups, is due to be debated in the Israeli parliament on Monday. Some Israeli doctors have demonstrated against the bill, saying they won’t comply if it comes into law.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)


I'm pretty sure it's not "sixty-three Palestinian prisoners" in addition to sixty-three days of hunger strike:

Of course I can't swear up and down that both aren't true. But it would be quite a coincidence.

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