Gilad Schalit 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Ministry said that a “surprising” visit by a
German mediator to Cairo for talks over the release of kidnapped IDF soldier
Gilad Schalit was meant to distract the international community from the hunger
strike being staged by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli
Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Ministry spokesperson Riad
al-Ashkar said that there have been no developments in the prisoner-swap deal
for Schalit, and that the current visit by a German mediator only undermines the
'Israel willing to 'pay the price' for freeing Schalit'
Hamas optimistic over exchange deal for Schalit
Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails have joined a hunger
strike to protest against deteriorating prison conditions. The strike was called
after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu toughened restrictions on Palestinian
prisoners as part of an effort to force Hamas to free kidnapped IDF soldier
Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqea told Reuters that
some 500 prisoners in Israeli jails were refusing to eat, rapidly swelling the
ranks of the protest that began last week.
Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman
for the Prisons Service, said only 160 prisoners were on a hunger strike and
that some of them stopped eating six days ago.
“They are all under
medical supervision and none is in danger,” she said, adding that they were all
Around 6,000 Palestinians are detained in Israeli
prisons, according to Qaraqea, who said that most of those not on the open-ended
strike were nonetheless shunning food for three days every week in solidarity
with the others.
Thousands of Palestinians staged rallies in both the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Monday to voice their support for the
“Freedom can only be complete when the homeland is liberated and
prisoners are released,” chanted protesters in Ramallah.
said the clampdown included preventing access to books, educational programs and
new clothes, expanding solitary confinement, cutting back on family visits and
forcing detainees to meet their lawyers with their hands cuffed.
Hamas official warned on Monday that rather than bow to Israeli pressure,
militants would abduct more Israeli soldiers to push their demand for a mass
release of Palestinian inmates.
“More of Schalit’s kind are coming,”
Hamas lawmaker Ismail Al-Ashqar said in Gaza, adding that the “effort to kidnap
soldiers will continue until prisoners are freed.”
“The policy of
kidnapping soldiers and settlers will continue until the release of our brave
prisoners,” Ashqar said during a solidarity rally for Palestinian prisoners in
Israeli jails at the International Red Cross headquarters in the Gaza Strip.