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Hunger strike deal to be reached 'at any moment'

May 13, 2012 7:18 P.M. (Updated: May 14, 2012 1:22 P.M.)
CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Israeli officials and a committee representing prisoners on hunger strike are expected to sign an agreement on Sunday which will secure the demands of protesting detainees, a senior Fatah official said.

"We are expecting at any moment that an agreement with the Israeli side will be signed in which the prisoners’ demands will be implemented, in particular the end of solitary confinement and improving the situation of the prisoners and allowing family visits," Azzam al-Ahmad told Ma'an.

"The agreement is in its last stages," he added.

Al-Ahmad had earlier met with Egyptian officials in Cairo to discuss the issue of hunger strikers. The Fatah official met with deputy Egyptian intelligence chief Rafat Shahata and Nader al-Aasar, who heads an intelligence group on Palestinian affairs.

PA prisoners affairs minister Issa Qaraqe told Ma'an on Saturday that President Mahmoud Abbas, PA officials, Egyptian and international mediators had been working hard to find a solution which secures the demands of the hunger strikers.

Egyptian mediators are negotiating with the Israelis, in coordination with Palestinian officials, to secure an end to administrative detention, family visits for prisoners from the Gaza Strip, and an end to the policy of solitary confinement, Qaraqe said.

Any agreement between officials would then have to be approved by a hunger strike committee, which consists of high profile prisoners from different Palestinian political factions, the PA official added.

Rights groups say around 2,000 prisoners are on hunger strike to demand improved conditions in Israeli jails.

Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahla, 33, have gone for 76 days without food, Palestinians for Dignity said Sunday.

Hasan al-Safadi has gone without food for 70 days, Omar Abu Shallal for 68 days, Mahmoud al-Sarsak for 56 days, Mohammad Taj for 57 days, Jafar Ezzedine for 53 days, and Abdullah Al-Barghouthi for 32 days, the youth group said.

The fate of the hunger strikers has touched a raw nerve in the Palestinian territories with daily demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to support the protest.

An estimated 40 percent of men in the occupied territories have been detained by Israel at some point in their lives.
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