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Committee: Possible negotiations to take place between IPS and hunger strike leaders

May 12, 2017 12:36 P.M. (Updated: May 16, 2017 5:12 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, spoke to Ma’an at Friday around noon, saying that negotiations between Israeli officials and leaders of the mass “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike could take place during the coming hours of Friday afternoon and evening, the 26th day of the strike.

Qaraqe told Ma’an that the committee received the initial information from hunger-striking prisoners they were in contact with. The prisoners said that Israeli Prison Service (IPS) authorities had suggested to meet with leaders of the strike to negotiate the strikers demands.

“We do not know if IPS would be serious in their talks, but it is certain that international pressure, popular movement, the critical health conditions of prisoners and the fact that several of them were transferred to hospitals, have pushed IPS to this step,” Qaraqe told Ma’an.

An IPS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Qaraqe stressed the critical health conditions of prisoners, saying that many hunger strikers have begun to vomit blood and fall to the ground due to dizziness and body weakness.

Regarding the number of prisoners currently taking part in the strike -- which had previously been estimated by the media committee of the hunger strike to be between 1,500 and 1,600 prisoners -- Qaraqe told Ma’an that some 1,300 prisoners are currently on open hunger strike, highlighting that some groups of prisoners had opened shortened solidarity strikes for a limited time only.

As Israeli authorities have severely restricted hunger-striking prisoners’ access to their relatives, lawyers, and each other, estimates of the number of hunger strike participants have been hard to corroborate.

While Israeli authorities have claimed that fewer than 1,000 prisoners were participating in the strike, on Thursday, Sawt al-Asra (Voice of Prisoners) radio estimated that nearly 1,800 prisoners were hunger striking after quoting anonymous sources as saying that nearly 100 Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum had decided to join the strike.

In the second week of the hunger strike, reports emerged that IPS said negotiations would be based on the condition that they exclude Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, who has been leading the strike amidst an Israeli campaign to discredit him and break the will of the hunger strikers.

An IPS spokesperson, however, denied to Ma’an at the time that IPS would be involved with any negotiations, saying: "The Israel Prison Service manages prisoners and their living conditions and does not negotiate with prisoners."

The hunger-striking prisoners, led by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention -- imprisonment without charge or trial -- among other demands for basic rights.

According to prisoners' rights organization Addameer, 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been detained by Israeli authorities at some point in their lives, as rights groups have long accused Israel of using routine imprisonment as a tool to erode family and political life in the Palestinian territory.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to Palestinian organizations.
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