The strike was suspended after 48 hours of intensive negotiations between representatives from the Israel Prison Service, Palestinian prisoner leadership, and various Palestinian national committees on Thursday, according to the Palestinian Political Prisoners Society.
Some 3000 political prisoners have been on strike for the past three weeks in protest over poor jail conditions.
Among other things, they were demanding increased family visits, removal of glass separation barriers, and an end to solitary confinement, dehumanising strip searches and “arbitrary and indiscriminate beatings”.
Other demands included visitation rights of families who are forced to spend hours under interrogation by Israeli checkpoints and ensuring the separation of political prisoners from criminals.
The Prisoners Society told Aljazeera.net that the Israeli Prison Service had agreed to release from solitary confinement all Palestinian prisoners, but so far the report has not been confirmed.
Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abd al-Raziq declared an end to the hunger strike at a press conference in Gaza early on Thursday evening, saying an agreement had been reached between Israeli prison authorities and hunger strikers.
Abd al-Raziq said “most of the prisoners demands have been met” as the result of what he termed “positive negotiations”, but gave no further details.
Abd al-Raziq warned that if the Prison Service reneges on the terms of the undisclosed agreement, the prisoners will continue their strike. He also emphasised that Fatah leader Marwan Barghuthi is still in solitary confinement in an Israeli jail, where he is serving a life sentence, and remains on hunger strike.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Prison Service confirmed that at about 1500 GMT on Thursday the remaining 600 prisoners on hunger strike in the Nefkha prison in Beir al-Saba had their first meals in 19 days.
Israel has denied making any
The spokesperson’s response regarding reported Israeli concessions was ambiguous, however. He was only able to deny that any “security” concessions on their part have been made.
“No concessions whatsoever have been made on the security front, said the spokesperson, adding that there has always been an open dialogue between the Service and the prisoners.
Pressed about the nature of the dialogue and any “non-security” demands that have been met, the spokesperson said that “we have had discussions on the humanitarian front. Things have been examined but in no way relating to any security matter. In the future, a number of humanitarian matters will be examined”.
He had no comment when asked about the reported agreement to release prisoners from solitary confinement, saying only that “no one will be left out when such cases are examined”.
The Prison Service has regarded the strike as a “futile attempt” to combat the State of Israel and has thus been reluctant to acknowledge any concessions made on their part.
Representatives of the families of the Palestinian prisoners say they will re-activate the strike if it turns out no concessions have been made.
“As families we are hopeful they reach an agreement. We are very worried about their well-being, and we will continue our solidarity campaign with them”
“They were forced to sit down with the prisoner leadership and have real negotiations with them. But if it turns out that there is nothing concrete from the head of the Prison Service, the [prisoners] may return to the strike,” said Mahmud Ziade, representative of the Families of Palestinian Political Prisoners.
“As families we are hopeful they reach an agreement. We are very worried about their well-being, and we will continue our solidarity campaign with them.”
A Palestinian mother died of complications last week after fasting for 12 days in solidarity with her jailed son.
Over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel since the 1967 war, accounting for about 20% of the Palestinian population – the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
More than 7000 Palestinians, 324 children among them, are currently being held in Israeli jails or detentions centres. The overwhelming majority are political prisoners who have been arbitrarily imprisoned or detained without ever being put on trial, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, Addamir.