Israel deal ends hunger strikes by 2,000 in jail
Israel agreed to relax significant elements of the regime for Palestinian prisoners yesterday in an 11th hour deal which ended the mass hunger strike in its jails.
Faced with the imminent prospect of widespread unrest across the occupied territories, Egyptian and Jordanian mediators helped broker a deal just in time to prevent deaths among the 2,000 prisoners who took part in the protest that started over two months ago.
While inmates held under administrative detention -- a system which allows the imprisonment of Palestinians on secret evidence and without charge or trial -- will still serve their terms, officials acknowledged that the deal provides for such sentences to be renewable only on the basis of new evidence.
The Israeli authorities also made a substantive concession by agreeing to return prisoners held in solitary confinement to their normal cells. They also lifted a ban on family visits to prisoners from Gaza held in Israeli jails, a major source of grievance.
With one senior Israeli official saying that the government had gone "the extra mile" to negotiate a deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration sought to project the agreement in the wider context of the frozen peace process.
"In response to a request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel has negotiated an end to the hunger strike," Mr Netanyahu's office said. "It is our hope that this gesture by Israel will start to build confidence between the parties and further peace."
Meanwhile, in Ramallah, Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive member Hanan Ashrawi said it was a victory "for millions of Palestinians".
She added: "The hunger strikers' courage is magnificently inspiring, and their selflessness deeply humbling. They have truly demonstrated that non-violent resistance is an essential tool in our struggle for freedom."