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Israel ‘okays deal’ to end hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners

Tony Blair urges Israeli officials to ‘to take all necessary measures to prevent a tragic outcome’

Palestinian protesters rally in support of  hunger-striking prisoners in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Sunday (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian protesters rally in support of hunger-striking prisoners in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Sunday (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Israel has agreed to a proposal that would end a mass hunger strike by Palestinians in Israeli jails, according to an Egyptian official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Sunday that under the deal Israel will move prisoners currently in solitary confinement to regular cells.

Israel also will soften its “administrative detention” policy, under which prisoners deemed a security risk can be held without charges.

The official said the Egyptian-drafted proposal still needs to be approved by the prisoners.

Israeli officials did not confirm the report, however an Israeli source close to the negotiations said Sunday that an agreement is likely “today or tomorrow.” The source added that the negotiations now hinged on two keys issues: prisoner family visits from the Gaza Strip and solitary confinement policies.

Senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad told Palestinian news agency Ma’an Sunday evening that Israel and the strikers were expected to sign an agreement to end solitary confinement, improve prison conditions, and permit family visits, within the next few hours.

According to the report, any agreement between Egyptian and Israeli representatives would have to be approved by the hunger striking prisoner committee, composed of high profile prisoners from Palestinian political factions.

Two men, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, have been on strike for over 70 days. Both are members of Islamic Jihad, a violent Palestinian terror group that has killed hundreds and maimed many more in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks.

Approximately 1,600 prisoners in Israeli jails launched a joint hunger strike last month demanding better conditions and putting an end to detention without trial.

Israel has come under significant pressure from the international community to find a solution that would end the hunger strike.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Sunday that he was “increasingly concerned about the deteriorating health conditions of the hunger strikers.” Blair, the official envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, said he had urged Israeli officials “to take all necessary measures to prevent a tragic outcome that could have serious implications for stability and security conditions on the ground.”

Palestinian terror factions have warned that they would retaliate violently if any of the prisoners died as a result of the strike.

President Mahmoud Abbas told a West Bank rally on Thursday that if anyone is harmed, “we will not be quiet ever.” He did not elaborate.

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