Hunger strike busted by lack of attention — Palestinian source

Official says that prisoners agreed to deal with authorities because their issue had faded from the public agenda

Illustrative photo of Palestinians playing soccer while rallying for hunger-striking prisoners outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank, on June 11, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Palestinians playing soccer while rallying for hunger-striking prisoners outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank, on June 11, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Dozens of Palestinian prisoners struck a deal with Israeli prisons to end their hunger strike because it was clear that it had failed, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

While the prisoners were able to negotiate for some improvement in the conditions of their imprisonment, the official said they were primarily motivated by a realization that the issue had faded from the public agenda — presumably because of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and ensuing IDF crackdown — and that their efforts would not lead to an end to the practice of administrative detention by Israel.

On Tuesday, 63 of 290 Palestinian prisoners suspended the strike, which they have been engaged in since late April, one of their lawyers said.

The source, who is close to the Palestinian Fatah movement, said it was possible the strike’s end was connected to the controversial force-feeding law being brought to a vote next week.

The bill was set to go ahead Wednesday after a short delay stemming from a disagreement between Yesh Atid and coalition partners was resolved Tuesday evening.

The prisoners began refusing food on April 24 in protest of the policy that allows Israel to hold them 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,” lawyer Ashraf Abu Snena said, referring to the Muslim fasting month which begins this weekend.

Israel confirmed the agreement, details of which were to be made public later on Wednesday.

Israel Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP 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.

“This measure will continue to be used.”

Earlier this month, the prisons service said the hunger strike was the longest-ever staged by Palestinian detainees.

Some 5,000 Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails, with nearly 200 in administrative detention.

However, that number looks set to double as Israel presses a major arrest operation in the West Bank following the disappearance of three teenagers believed kidnapped by Hamas.

So far, 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.

Spencer Ho contributed to this report.

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