Women walk past pictures of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Nablus, May 9, 2017. (Reuters)
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners suspended their 40-day hunger strike after reaching an agreement with Israeli authorities.
More than 1,300 Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike 17 April in response to a call by Marwan Barghouti — the prominent Palestinian political figure in the Fatah movement who has been jailed since 2002 — to protest poor prison conditions and the detention of thousands of Palestinians by Israeli authorities without trial since the 1980s.
The hunger-striking prisoners held talks with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Authority, reaching an agreement on changes to some of the prisoners' conditions, Palestinian groups and an Israeli Prison Service statement said.
In a joint statement, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said that the prisoners suspended the "Freedom and Dignity" strike after reaching a deal following more than 20 hours of negotiations between Barghouthi and other prison leaders with Israeli occupation forces in Ashkelon Prison, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
Neither party released full details of the agreement, only that the second monthly family visit would be granted after Israeli forces cut it earlier.
The prisoners’ main demands included an end to solitary confinement, to be moved to prisons in the occupied territories as per the Fourth Geneva Convention, an improvement in access to medical care; increasing visit durations from 45 to 90 minutes; an improvement in detention conditions, and others changes.
In a press statement later Saturday, Fatah movement expressed “its pride in the resistance and triumph” of the prisoners, saying that they recorded "the highest of level of pride and dignity for the entire Palestinian people.”
During the hunger strike, prisoners said they were facing a harsh crackdown from Israeli prison authorities, as their medical conditions continued to decline.
On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein urged Israel to improve conditions.
A number of activities in the Palestinian terriritories were held in support of the prisoners, such as popular rallies and general strikes.
The number of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons are estimated at over 6,000 including 29 imprisoned before the Oslo Accords in 1993, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed the latter in a move never recognised as legitimate by the international community.