|Protest for Palestinian prisoners.(Photo by: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)|
Israel, Palestinian prisoners ink deal to end strike
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH, YAAKOV LAPPIN, YAAKOV KATZ
Agreement commits Palestinian prisoners to refrain from involvement in “activities against security” within prison walls.
Israel and Palestinian security prisoners on Monday signed an Egyptian-mediated
deal to end a 28-day hunger strike by inmates.
According to the terms of
the agreement, Palestinian prisoners committed to refrain from involvement in
“activities against security” within prison walls. In exchange, previously
suspended benefits will be reinstated by the Prisons Service, including the
renewal of familial visits and allowing inmates held in separate cells to return
to the general prison population.
The agreement was made possible after
leaders of the striking prisoners signed a commitment to completely halt terror
activities from inside Israeli prisons, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency)
said in a rare statement.
Inmate leaders – who are outside prison –
instructed the prisoners to stop such terror activities, the statement
Palestinians hailed the prisoner agreement as a triumph, with both
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority taking credit for the
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians took to the streets to
celebrate the “victory” of the prisoners.
A small group of Palestinians
in east Jerusalem also took to the streets to celebrate the agreement. Some of
them chanted slogans calling for the abduction of IDF soldiers, to secure the
release of Palestinian prisoners.
Various Palestinian political groups in
the Gaza Strip praised the striking inmates for their “legendary” endurance
during the hunger strike. The groups also praised Egypt for playing a major role
in mediating between the parties.
The Hamas government said that it had
made tremendous efforts to end the plight of the prisoners.
Minister Ismail Haniyeh thanked the Egyptians for their role in helping to broker the agreement, official Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram’s website
Speaking in Gaza, Haniyeh also congratulated the prisoners who
“successfully achieved their demands,” and praised the “steadfastness of the
prisoners,” according to the report.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials
traveled to Cairo this week for talks with the Egyptian government and PA
representatives regarding ways to end the hunger strike.
Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said that Israel negotiated the
strike-ending deal in response to a request from PA President Mahmoud
“It is our hope that this gesture by Israel will serve to build
confidence between the parties and advance peace,” he said.
strike issue was discussed Saturday night when Netanyahu’s envoy, Yitzhak
Molcho, delivered a letter from the prime minister to Abbas.
Right slammed the deal.
Likud MK Danny Danon said the agreement was “a
serious mistake. Instead of worsening the [imprisonment] conditions of
terrorists, they are given presents. Prisoners’ conditions should be clear – no
family visits, no benefits in buying products and no release from isolation for
Danon said he would ask for an urgent discussion in
the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on the agreement and would try to
prevent its implementation.
Some 1,600 prisoners, a third of the 4,800
Palestinians in Israeli jails, began refusing food on April 17 in a protest that
also included demands for more family visits and an end to solitary
The peaceful campaign has focused attention on so-called
“administrative detention,” a practice that has drawn international criticism,
and raised fears of a violent Palestinian backlash if any of the protesters
Israel had set a goal to end the hunger strike before “Nakba Day” on
Tuesday, amid fears that the strike would lead to greater violence by
Meanwhile, the families of prisoners Bilal
Diab and Thaer Halahle, who have been on hunger strike for more than two months,
announced that their sons were not part of the deal.
The families said
that their sons have decided to continue their hunger strike until they are
released from prison.
Leaders of the inmates signed the agreement on
behalf of all security prisoners – belonging to all groups – being held in
The agreement is binding for prisoners who are
rearrested in the future.
Before reaching the agreement, an Israeli
committee made up of representatives from the Prisons Service, Justice Ministry,
Foreign Ministry and Health Ministry, as well as the Shin Bet and National
Security Council, examined the prisoners’ request, and passed on recommendations
to Israeli decision-makers.
Prisoners who were on hunger strike will
remain under medical supervision to ensure that a return to eating will not
result in medical complications, Israeli authorities said.
authorities added that the prisoners received their full legal rights throughout
the hunger strike.
Herb Keinon and JPS contributed to this report.