Palestinian prisoners wait to be released from Ketziot prison, southern Israel, October 1, 2007.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Palestinian prisoners held in Israel have postponed their planned hunger strike that was scheduled to begin on Sunday.
Palestinian sources said the prisoners decided to delay the hunger strike to allow more time for negotiations with the Israel Prison Service (IPS).
Some 30 leaders of Hamas prisoner were scheduled to go on a hunger strike on Sunday morning to protest the installation of cell-phone jamming devices in a number of prisons.
The prisoners are also protesting harsh measures taken by the IPS against inmates, following the stabbing of two guards in Ketziot Prison in the Negev last month.
Sources claimed that the leaders of the Hamas prisoners on Sunday morning refused food, saying they were determined to launch their hunger strike.
Negotiations between the prisoners and IPS officials were expected to continue later Sunday in an attempt to prevent the hunger strike, they added.
The inmates demanded the removal of signal-jamming devices
that prevent them from using cellular phones, lifting sanctions placed on some prisoners following the stabbing of two prison guards last month by Hamas prisoners, and the resumption of family visits.
Following the stabbing of two guards at Ketziot Prison in the Negev, the IPS imposed restrictions on dozens of prisoners for their reported involvement in the incident, and for a subsequent riot that erupted in the prison.
On Friday, unconfirmed reports said the IPS and the prisoners were close to reaching agreement to avert the hunger strike.
However, the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies denied the reports and said that the inmates were preparing to launch their action on Sunday morning.
Riad Ashkar, a spokesman for the center, said negotiations between the prisoners and the Israeli authorities were unsuccessful. He claimed that the IPS has offered to install public phones in the prisons which the prisoners would be permitted to use under the supervision of the authorities.
According to Ashkar, the IPS told the prisoners that their demands would be discussed after Tuesday’s general elections. The prisoners, he said, don’t trust the authorities’ promises and insist on all their demands being met, in particular, the removal of the jamming devices.
Ashkar described the reports about a possible agreement between the prisoners and the authorities as “rumors” and “lies” designed to “alleviate the state of tension and frustrate the growing solidarity with the prisoners.”
In the first stage of the hunger strike, the leaders of the prisoners will refuse food, he explained. A week later, they will be joined by other prisoners who will refuse food and water. “These escalating steps will continue and develop into a comprehensive hunger strike on April 17, the anniversary of Palestinian Prisoner’s Day,” Ashkar added. Palestinians mark Palestinian Prisoner’s Day each year with rallies and demonstrations in solidarity with the inmates.
Kadri Abu Bakr, head of the Commission for Palestinian Prisoners and Ex-Detainees, on Sunday warned that unless the Israeli authorities accept their demands, the prisoners will declare a hunger strike on Sunday.
Abu Bakr predicted that the Israeli authorities would give their response to the demands by late Saturday.
He claimed that the signal-jamming devices were harmful to the prisoners’ health. He also complained that the prisoners are not allowed to watch television or listening to radio. The prisoners, he said, are also demanding the right to use public phones to stay in touch with their families and the lifting of sanctions imposed on many of them after the stabbing of the two prison guards.
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