A 40-day hunger strike by Palestinian security prisoners ended Saturday after an agreement was reached between the Palestinian Authority and Red Cross to provide the prisoners with additional family visits, the Israel Prisons Service said.
Palestinian officials said the strike was “suspended” and the outlines of the agreement would be announced later.
“Within the understanding, it was agreed that the Palestinian Authority would finance the resumption of the second monthly visit of the prisoners’ families, with the consent of Israel and the Red Cross,” the Prisons Service said in a statement.
Transportation for two monthly family visits per prisoner previously was paid for by the Red Cross, which cut funding for the second visit a year ago amid budgetary concerns.
PA officials are claiming victory, stating that the hunger strike was successful in meeting their demands, while the Prisons Service said there was no negotiation, and that none of the prisoners’ demands were met apart from the visitations.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also disputed the Palestinian officials’ statements, telling Channel 2 “there is absolutely no pledge to grant” any of the other prisoner demands.
“It appears that this strike failed,” Erdan added.
A Prisons Service official said Marwan Barghouti and 10 of the strikers’ leadership met at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon and were informed that the PA was willing to fund the second visitation. The same official claimed that the Palestinians sought to end the strike in time for Ramadan.
Jamal Muhaisen, a Fatah Central Committee member, said there were negotiations that lasted 20 hours, in which “an agreement was reached with the IPS regarding the prisoners’ humane and just demands.” He did not elaborate details of the agreement.
The hunger strike began on April 17 and involved around 1,500 prisoners led by Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for the murders of five people. Among the list of prisoner demands were that the Prisons Service end solitary confinement and detention without trial, increase visitation rights and improve amenities.
The Prisons Service says its treatment of prisoners meets international standards.
Israel has decried the strike as an attempt by Barghouti to gain increased political standing within Palestinian politics.
The Prisons Service also attempted to undermine the strike by publishing a video in which Barghouti appears to be secretly eating in his cell.
The Prisons Service said the remaining 834 prisoners stopped their strike on Saturday and that 18 will be returned to prison from the hospital upon approval by doctors.
Just days ago, PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, to talk to Israel about the demands of hunger- striking prisoners.
The strike was also a topic of discussion when Abbas met with Trump on Tuesday when Abbas, during their joint press conference, called on Israel “to respond affirmatively to these humane and legitimate demands.”
There are more than 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.Adam Rasgon and Becky Brothman contributed to this report.