Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on Saturday ended a 40-day hunger strike over their conditions in Israeli jails under a deal brokered by the Red Cross, the Israel Prisons Service and a Palestinian official said.
About 1,100 inmates had initially taken part in one of the largest such hunger strikes, that began on April 17 and had raised tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, with protests in support of the strikers spilling over into clashes in the occupied West Bank and along the Israel-Gaza border.
Some 30 of the more than 800 hunger strikers had been hospitalized in recent days, raising fears of more escalation.
But the strike ended at the start of the holy month of Ramadan after talks held with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Authority concluded in an agreement to change some of the prisoners’ conditions, a Prison Service Statement said.
Issa Karaka, Chairman of Prisoners’ Affairs at the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), confirmed the inmates had agreed to stop the strike.
The Prison Service said the prisoners would now get an extra family visit per month. It was not immediately clear if any of their other demands had been met.
On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged Israel to improve conditions for Palestinians in its custody.
The strike was called by Marwan Barghouti, the most high-profile Palestinian jailed in Israel, to protest against solitary confinement and an Israeli practice of detention without trial that has been applied to thousands of prisoners since the 1980s.
Among the demands Barghouti had reportedly made were 20 channels of television, unrestricted books and magazines, air conditioning, a greater selection of items available for purchase in the canteen, family visits, the restarting of open university studies, public telephone use, and annual medical checks for prisoners.
The Prisons Service said that most of the inmates on strike were aligned with Fatah.