Ramallah — Dozens of Palestinian prisoners are to end their two-month-old hunger strike in Israeli jails despite not winning any major concessions from the Israeli government.
Shawqi Eissa, the Palesitian minister of prisoners affairs, said on Wednesday that 63 prisoners agreed a deal and suspended their protest shortly after midnight.
The strike was meant to protest against Israel’s use of "administrative detention", a process through which it holds prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial.
The agreement reached on Tuesday night includes no promise to limit the use of administrative detention, however.
Under the terms of the deal, the hunger-strikers will be returned to their original prisons. Many had been moved around as punishment, with some kept in isolation. "This is not a huge victory, but a modest step forward," said Qadura Fares, the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.
Ayman Tbeish, an "administrative detainee" who has been fasting for 118 days, did not suspend his strike, Issa said.
The strike was the longest mass protest by Palestinian prisoners, and in recent weeks prompted growing concern within the Israeli government.
But any chance of meaningful concessions disappeared on June 12, when three Israelis disappeared while hitchhiking home from their religious seminary in the occupied West Bank.
The army has since rounded up more than 400 Palestinians, including dozens who were released in a 2011 deal for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and there is public pressure to impose long jail terms on many of them.
"We did not succeed in mobilising the Palestinian street behind the hunger strike," Fares said. "Unfortunately, when the Israelis went missing it became difficult. As we know, prisoners are the first target."
An official at the Israeli prison service said the decision was also related to a draft law that would allow prisoners to be force-fed. The bill was rushed through the Knesset this month, and is due for a final vote on Monday.
About 5,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails, with nearly 200 in administrative detention, a number that is expected to double in the coming days as recent arrests are processed.
Israel promised in 2012 to limit its use of the practice, as part of an agreement to end a previous hunger strike, but prisoners say the government has reneged on the deal.