EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) -- Forty Egyptian prisoners in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike Friday after a prisoner swap deal between the two countries reportedly fell through.
"About 40 Egyptian prisoners began a hunger-strike on Friday," Egyptian prisoner Mousa Alatrash told Ma'an.
An exchange deal with Israel was meant to take place Wednesday to complete the prisoner swap, Alatrash said, but an announcement by Egypt last Sunday that it was ending its gas deal soured the agreement.
Israeli officials came to Beersheba prison to tell detainees that the exchange deal had failed, Alatrash said.
Egyptian officials told Ma'an that they were willing to go through with the prisoner exchange and that the termination of a long-term gas supply to Israel had delayed, but not canceled, the deal.
The relative of an Egyptian prisoner told Ma'an last Saturday that Israeli prison authorities said that they would release 63 detainees on Wednesday in return for convicted spy Ouda Tarabin, who has been imprisoned in Egypt since 2000.
An Egyptian official had told Ma'an last week that prisoners would be released via the Taba crossing under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, was the first to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, a move that prompted the assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981.