Israel signs deal to end Palestinian prison hunger strike | News | DW | 15.05.2012
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Israel signs deal to end Palestinian prison hunger strike

Israel has signed a deal with militant groups to end a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners. More than 1,500 inmates took part in the protest over conditions and a controversial policy of detention without charge.

The deal late on Monday was reached through Egyptian mediation, according to the Palestinian militant groups and a prisoners' support organization.

The Israel Prisons Service confirmed there had been an agreement to ease conditions, with an undertaking from prisoners "not to engage in actions contravening security inside the jails."

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the deal was agreed at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"It is our hope that this decision will serve to build confidence between the parties and further peace," a government statement said.

"All of the factions signed an agreement to end the strike," Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told the AFP news agency after several hours of negotiations.

Palestinians freed from Israeli prisons crossed into the Palestinian territories

The agreement limits detention without trial in most cases

Most of the 1,550 prisoners had stopped eating for up to four weeks, while two members of the group Islamic Jihad, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, had been fasting for 76 days. They ended their protest after being informed of the decision.

More family visits, end to separation policy

There were celebrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following the deal, which paves the way for prisoners to receive more family visits and the end of a policy of separation from the rest of the general prison population.

"The prisoners have proved to the whole world that empty stomachs are more powerful than any ruler or oppressor," said a spokesman for Gaza's hardline Hamas rulers, Fawzi Barhoum.

Crucially, the deal also limits a controversial policy that allows for suspects to be imprisoned for years without charge.

Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqi told Voice of Palestine Radio that Israel had indicated it would continue administrative detention beyond six months only in "very exceptional cases."

rc/ncy (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)