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Israel resumes family visits for Gaza prisoners

Dec. 2, 2012 5:00 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 3, 2012 7:18 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Sunday resumed family visits for Gazan prisoners jailed in Israel, a prisoners group said.

Saber Abu Karsh, chairman of the Gaza-based Waed Prisoner Association, said in a statement that 59 family members will visit Nafha prison on Monday.

The group will depart from outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Abu Karsh said.

In late October, the Palestinian Authority ministry of detainees said that Israel had canceled family visits for prisoners from Gaza, three months after they were resumed.

In July, Israel allowed the first visits to prisoners from Gaza in five years. Visits had been banned since 2007 to pressure Hamas to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed in Oct. 2011.

Israel agreed to resume family visits for Gaza prisoners as part of a deal to end a mass month-long hunger strike in Israeli jails. At the time, Minister of Detainee Affairs Issa Qaraqe said visits were resuming on an "experimental basis."

Since 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross had called for the resumption of family visits and it welcomed the first visits in July.

"This is a first step and we hope that visits by residents of Gaza will resume in full," said Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the local ICRC delegation, in July.

"We have repeatedly called for the resumption of family visits, which are a lifeline for detainees and their families. Under international humanitarian law, Israeli authorities have an obligation to allow the detainees to receive family visits."
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