The UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process called Thursday for an urgent resolution to the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
In a statement, Nickolay Mladenov said he was following the strike — now in its second month — “with great concern,” and cited international humanitarian law as well as “Israel’s human rights obligations” in pressing for an end to the strike.
“With growing tensions on the Palestinian street, I hope that current efforts will result in an immediate resolution to the matter, which is in the interest of peace and ongoing initiatives to revive a political process,” Mladenov said.
“I call on all actors to exercise maximum restraint, show responsibility and take all necessary steps to avoid escalating tensions.”
After 31 days, 843 prisoners are still on a hunger strike, according to the Israel Prisons Service.
They include the strike’s organizer Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist serving five life sentences for masterminding deadly attacks, popular on the Palestinian street, who is considered a possible future Palestinian leader.
Several dozen hunger-striking Palestinians have been transferred from their cells to special wings in Israeli prisons for additional medical supervision, a spokesman for the Israel Prisons Service said Wednesday.
The prisoners, jailed for offenses linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seek better conditions, including 20 TV channels, unrestricted books and magazines, air conditioning, a greater selection of items available for purchase in the canteen, family visits, the restarting of open university studies, public telephone use, and annual medical checks for prisoners.
Israel says prisoners’ conditions meet all international standards. Reported efforts to negotiate an end to the strike have failed thus far.