Israeli minister: The murderer Barghouti continues to lie

Barghouti says hunger strike has not ended and could resume

Jailed Fatah terrorist says Israel made ‘promises’ to prisoners, contrary to Israeli claims; says PA should not talk peace before all prisoners freed

Marwan Barghouti, file photo (Flash90)
Marwan Barghouti, file photo (Flash90)

Jailed Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti said Tuesday the Palestinian prisoners’ strike had not ended, but had rather been put on hold and could be resumed at any time should Israel not live up to its “promises.”

Barghouti claimed the strike, whose cessation after 40 days was announced by both sides on Saturday, had brought the issue of the Palestinian security prisoners held by Israel back to the forefront of the international stage. The prisoners, he said, “stood strong in a historic and unprecedented manner for the national movement.”

But he denied that the strike had officially ended, saying: “We have paused the strike in order to give a chance for dialogue, and we stress we are prepared to renew it if the Israel Prisons Service does not keep its promises.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan swiftly denied Barghouti’s claim that any promises had been made.

“The murderer Barghouti continues to lie,” Erdan said. “No promises were given.” Erdan said the convicted killer “was forced to invent results for the strike” as none had actually been achieved.

Palestinian officials have claimed that Israel conceded to 80 percent of the prisoners’ demands, resulting in “a fundamental transformation in the terms of the prisoners’ living conditions.”

Israel, on the other hand, has said it neither negotiated with the Palestinians nor conceded a single demand.

Barghouti also said that the Palestinian Authority should not hold peace negotiations with Israel before every one of the 6,500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel is released.

Both the Israelis and the Palestinians announced the end of the strike early Saturday morning, agreeing only to the facts that the strike was over and that the prisoners would have an extra family visit per month reinstated — a demand that had nothing to do with Israel, as such visits are organized by the Red Cross.

After that, the narrative diverged sharply. Israel said that it spoke only with the Red Cross and at no stage negotiated with Barghouti. The Palestinians said Israel negotiated directly with Barghouti in marathon 20-hour talks that ended at 4 a.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, said in a statement that Israel had also agreed in principle to a whole raft of the prisoners’ demands, a claim the Israel Prisons Service continued to deny.

Qaraqe said Palestinian prisoners would be allowed to make more phone calls to family, receive more frequent visits from family in Gaza, allowing family members to bring clothing and candy to prisoners, and enabling more distant family members to visit, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.

Palestinians celebrate after Palestinian prisoners ended a hunger strike over their conditions in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 27, 2017. (Flash90)
Palestinians celebrate after Palestinian prisoners ended a hunger strike over their conditions in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 27, 2017. (Flash90)

Israel will also lift a security ban on hundreds of family members, including 140 children, which had barred them from visiting prisoners, the report claimed.

According to Qaraqe, Israel agreed to place all female prisoners in Hasharon Prison, and give them better conditions. Imprisoned minors will have access to education. Overcrowding and improving general prison conditions will be negotiated. And prisoners will be placed in prisons closer to their families, the report said.

A spokesperson for the Israel Prisons Service denied it had made any concessions at all to the hunger striking prisoners.

“Contrary to the reports delivered by Issa Qaraqe, no benefits were given to national security prisoners in return for quitting the hunger strike and there were no negotiations on this matter,” an IPS spokesperson told Ma’an.

The spokesperson said that the strike resolution “was made possible due to the Palestinian Authority agreeing to fund the second visit, instead of the Red Cross, who, up to a few months ago, was the funding organization.”

Prison officials told Channel 2 on Saturday that hunger strike leader Barghouti negotiated the additional monthly visit in a phone conversation with PA Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh. They said officials at Ashkelon’s Shikma Prison allowed Barghouti to speak with al-Sheikh and meet with other leading prisoners in an effort to end the hunger strike before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

According to the Israeli officials, Barghouti and the other prisoners agreed to call off the strike after the PA promised to pay for the additional visits, at an estimated cost of $6 million per year.

Israel Radio said on Saturday that a message had been conveyed to the prisoners that Israel would be prepared to discuss other living condition issues with them at a later stage, but not under the threat of a hunger strike.

The hunger strike was initiated by Barghouti, a prominent Fatah terrorist and political figure on April 17. Barghouti is serving five life sentences for murders committed during the second Palestinian intifada.

Israel had all along refused to negotiate with the prisoners, noting that many were convicted terrorists and their conditions were in line with accepted norms.

But the strike provoked wide-spread solidarity protests among the Palestinians and in its final days there were dozens of clashes with the IDF in the West Bank and Gaza.

According to the Palestinian Authority, over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners reached their 40th day of the strike. Israel said the number was closer to 800.

Israel largely viewed the strike as having less to do with actual conditions and more to do with internal Palestinian politics, saying it was a strategic political move by Barghouti, who wanted to demonstrate his influence on the Palestinian street ahead of a bid to succeed PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

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