With 10 hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in hospital, Israel offers concessions

Administrative detainees, offered visits by Gaza family members and improved conditions, debating whether to end their fast

Hamas supporters hold a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah, calling for the release of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons on Friday (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash 90)
Hamas supporters hold a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah, calling for the release of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons on Friday (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash 90)

Palestinian prisoners are deliberating over an Israeli offer that may bring an end to a mass prison hunger strike, Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Issa Qaraqe told Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Qarage said the Israeli offer was made on Saturday, after 10 of the hunger-striking prisoners were placed under medical supervision on account of fast-related ailments.

The 10 men are among 1,500 to 2,500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to demand better conditions and an end to detention without trial.

Most of the strikers began refusing food 19 days ago, but a smaller core have been striking longer, from periods of time ranging from 40 to almost 70 days.

Prison spokeswoman Sivan Weizeman said the 10 were transferred to a prison clinic for medical supervision. Weizeman did not say when they were transferred or what medical treatment they are currently receiving.

Sahar Francis of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group, said the men were moved at different times last week. She said the men under medical supervision were those who had been on hunger strike the longest.

Another prisoner, Bilal Diab, was moved to a civilian hospital last week. He has refused food for 68 days so far.

The prisoners’ chief demands are a halt to imprisonment without charges, for periods ranging from months to years, in a system called “administrative detention.”

They are also demanding an end to solitary confinement, and reinstating family visits from Gaza. They also have smaller demands, such as being allowed to take a photo with their families once a year, instead of just once during their prison term.

Jamal al-Rjoob, a representative for Fatah prisoners, told Ma’an News Agency that Israel’s prison authorities met with Fatah-affiliated detainees in the Shita, Gilboa, Megiddo and Hadarim prisons.

Rjoob said that roughly half of the concessions offered by the Israel Prison Service were approved by prisoners, including: approving visits of family members from Gaza, restoring satellite television channels that were removed, increased canteen rights and improved canteen conditions as well as transfer of sick prisoners by ambulance instead of military vehicles.

Rjoob said the demand to pursue university education is still being discussed.

A meeting will take place between prisoner representatives in southern Israeli jails on Sunday and Monday, Rjoob added.

Israeli officials say they use administrative detention to hold Palestinians who pose an immediate threat to the country’s security. They say they keep the evidence secret from lawyers and the accused, because it would expose their intelligence-gathering networks if it was released

On Saturday Palestinian activists replaced Israeli flags raised along the road that connects Ramallah to the northern West Bank city of Nablus with Palestinian flags.

One of the activists told reporters that replacing the Israeli flags with Palestinian flags was a message of support to and solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners.

Thousands of Palestinians protested across the West Bank and Gaza on Friday in support of security detainees in Israeli prisons. At one gathering in Gaza City, Hamas leader Khalil Haya said that the hunger strike carried out by over 1,500 Palestinian inmates “isn’t a party” and that some of them could die.

“If that happens, you can expect both the expected and the unexpected from us,” he said, and added that Hamas is prepared to mobilize and fight in order to free its imprisoned compatriots.

Islamic Jihad, the other terrorist organization operating in the Gaza Strip, also threatened to break its truce with Israel should any hunger-strikers die.

Robert Serry, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, urged Israel on Friday to fulfill its international obligations and “do everything in its power to preserve the health of the prisoners.”

This wave of strikes appears inspired by protests carried out by Palestinian prisoners Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi earlier this year. Adnan refused food for 66 days to demand an end to his incarceration without trial, while Shalabi refused food for 43 days.

Adnan and Shalabi both belong to Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group vowed to Israel’s violent destruction. Both were held in administrative detention; neither were ever charged with a crime.

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