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Prisoners 'reject Israeli proposal' on family visits

May 29, 2012 1:59 P.M. (Updated: June 12, 2012 10:06 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Prisoners have rejected an Israeli proposal to allow detainees from Gaza to receive one half-hour visit every two months, the PA Ministry of Detainee Affairs said Tuesday.

On May 15, around 2,000 prisoners ended a month-long hunger strike after Israel agreed to "facilitate" their demands - which included allowing prisoners from the Gaza Strip to receive visits from their families.

Israel has banned residents of Gaza from visiting their relatives in Israel jails since 2007.

Jamal al-Rajoub, prisoner representative for Ramle jail, told his lawyer that detainees had rejected Israel's offer to resume visits limited to 30 minutes every two months, a ministry statement said.

Prisoners from the West Bank are allowed a 45-minute visit every two weeks, al-Rajoub noted.

Israel is trying to renege on the Egypt-brokered strike deal, he added.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials said Monday that Israel had also failed to change its policy of detention without trial, a key demand of the hunger strikers.

Since the deal, more than 25 prisoners have either been rearrested after their release or had their six-month "administrative detention" terms renewed, an official told Reuters.

The new detention figures are largely in line with past statistics during a two-week time frame, the officials said.

The agreement contained no explicit mechanisms for ending detention without trial, but prisoners and negotiators believed it compelled Israel to curtail the practice and refer more cases to open courts.

"We think that the Palestinian side and the Egyptian side made the same mistake, which is leaving the Israeli side to determine what the language of the agreement means," said Mourad Jadallah, a representative of the prisoner advocacy group Addameer based in Ramallah.

"Israel has taken our understandings to the furthest possible extreme," Jawad Boulos, one of the attorneys, told Palestinian radio. "This is sad, painful and angering, not just for us but for the prisoners who have had their terms extended three or four times."

Most of the 2,000 striking prisoners fasted for a month. But several others had refused food for up to 77 days - raising fears in Israel of a bloody Palestinian backlash if any of them died. Israel holds some 4,800 Palestinians in its jails.

Two prisoners refused to accept the deal, and remain on hunger strike. One of them, Mahmoud al-Sarsak, a football player from Gaza detained by Israel as an "unlawful combatant", has not eaten for 72 days.

In a desert prison in southern Israel, several dozen Hamas members detained without trial have threatened an open-ended hunger strike unless they are released, according to a handwritten letter seen by Reuters.

Reuters contributed to this report

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