Reports came from Egypt last night, from Gaza this morning, from Ramallah this evening, and Israel tonight that some kind of deal had been agreed by Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to end their action in exchange for Israeli concessions on their demands.
The news came as 4 of 8 Palestinian prisoners protesting their Administrative Detention have been on hunger strike for over 70 days [2 of them for 78 days]. There are currently 308 Palestinian Administrative Detainees in Israeli jails.
In addition, some 1600 or so other Palestinian prisoners started their own hunger strike on 17 April, which included support for the Palestinian Administrative Detainees — but which also demanded an end to extensive periods of isolation in solitary confinement for others, and an end to the ban on family visits to prisoners from Gaza, as well as a repeal of punitive measures put in place as reprisal for the conditions that Gilad Shalit was held in, in Gaza, for some five years.
By email from the Israeli Government Press Office tonight came this toughly-worded communication by the Israel Prison Service: “End of the Hunger Strike by Security Prisoners”. [A link was given to a Hebrew-language website, here]. Here is an annotated version of the text:
“1. This afternoon (Monday), 14.5.12, the security prisoners stopped their hunger strike after 28 days. [Note: 99.9 percent of Palestinian prisoner in Israel jails are classified as “security prisoners”. The collective hunger strike action began on 17 April, which Palestinians mark as Prisoner’s Day. But individual hunger strikes to protest orders of Administrative Detention, following the unprecendented example of Khader Adnan, who is now free, began 78 days ago. And 7 or 8 Palestinians in advanced stages of hunger strikes, 3 of them over 70 days, 2 on Day 78, are in the Ramleh prison clinic.]
2. The declaration regarding the end of the strike was made possible in the wake of the understandings that have been formulated in recent days, the main point of which is the security prisoners’ signature on a commitment not to engage in terrorism inside the prison walls in exchange for various easements in several areas, including the return of prisoners held in separation to the prison wings and the possibility of first degree relatives’ visits to prisoners from Gaza. [Note, I personally am bursting with curiosity to know what kind of “terrorism” was going on inside the secure walls of the Israeli Prison System which will now stop, as part of this deal. Was it the hunger strikes? Is it the smuggling of sim cards and mobile phones?]
3. Pursuant to the ISA [Israel Security Agency] statement regarding the understandings, following are several additional points [Note: we did not receive the ISA statement, but the New York Times did — see lower in this post]:
A. An inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Israel Prison Service Commissioner, and with the participation of representatives from the Justice, Foreign and Health ministries, as well as from the IDF (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Judge Advocate General), the Israel Security Agency, the National Security Council and the Israel Police, evaluated the significance of the prisoners’ requests and issued a serious of recommendations to the political echelon.
B. Before the strike, the Israel Prison Service Commissioner appointed an additional team to evaluate the prisoners’ requests regarding their prison living conditions; in the wake of the halt to the strike, several actions will be carried out regarding which positive decisions have been taken.
C. The decisions of the committee were shown to prisoners who did not strike, thus preventing their joining and expanding the strikers.
D. It should be pointed out that throughout the strike, the strikers were under close medical care and received professional treatment as necessary, including check-ups and hospitalization according to need.
E. Upon the conclusion of the strike, the medical monitoring will continue in order to prevent possible complications from an unsupervised return to eating.
F. Security deployment in the prisons and dialogue with the strikers throughout the period prevented a worsening of the situation including possible violent scenarios.
G. Throughout the strike, the Israel Prison Service took care regarding prisoners’ rights according to law and acted with complete transparency vis-à-vis official oversight agencies”.
Seriously, what could the Israeli Prison Services mean when they said the prisoners had signed a “commitment not to engage in terrorism inside the prison walls”? What terrorism is going inside the prison walls? This we would really like to know.
From the New York Times, we learn that “Israel’s internal security agency, known as the Shin Bet, said in a statement on Monday that the agreement became possible after the prisoners made a commitment ‘to completely halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons’, and ‘to refrain from all activity that constitutes practical support for terrorism, including recruiting people for terrorist activity, guidance, financing, coordinating among recruits, aiding recruits’, and related activities”. This is reported here.
The NYTimes also reported that “Israeli officials said they had made no commitment to end the practice of incarceration without formal charges or a trial, known as administrative detention, and that current administrative detainees would serve out their terms. But Issa Qaraqe, the minister of prisoner affairs for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, said earlier on Monday that there were understandings that the terms of the roughly 300 prisoners being held without charges would not be extended … Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected appeals for the immediate release of Mr. Diab and Mr. Halahleh, but the judges expressed reservations about any extension of their terms without further investigation and better judicial oversight”.
The 1,600 or so prisoners with the multiple demands are said to be waiting to see if Israel will fulfill its part of the deal.
Then, a bit after midnight, this news started to come in, via Twitter:
Al-Jazeera’s Rana Zabaneh – @RZabaneh:“#PalHunger: #ThaerHalahleh told his father he will end his hunger strike to be released on June 5”
Gaza Youth Break Out – @GazaYBO:
Lawyer Jawad Boulos: Thaer Hlahalh; Bilal Diab Stopped the strike after an agreement 2 end the AD; will be released on #June5.
Linah Alsaafin – @LinahAlsaafin:
“#BilalThiab according to what #ThaerHalahleh’s dad told me will be released August 17 after his administrative detention ends #PalHunger”
Maath Musleh @MaathMusleh :
“AD on hunger strike will end hunger strike in the morning when they receive official papers to confirm their detention will not be renewed!”
No one died. This is a major achievement.