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Hunger strike leaders call for 'serious negotiations' as strike enters 29th day

May 15, 2017 6:30 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 17, 2017 2:25 P.M.)
Some of Palestine's most high-profile prisoners. From left to right: Fouad Shubaki, Nael Barghouthi, Karim Yunis, Ahmad Saadat, Marwan Barghouthi
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Reports emerged on Monday, the 29th day of the mass “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike, that Palestinian security officials and officials of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, were attempting to reach an agreement that would end the hunger strike of an estimated 1,300 Palestinian prisoners.

Hebrew news website Walla quoted a Palestinian official as saying that a meeting was held between head of Palestinian Public Intelligence Majid Faraj, head of Palestinian Security Forces Ziyad Hab al-Rih, and Israeli Shin Bet officials.

Walla added that during the meeting, Palestinian officials told Israeli officials that Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s refusal to respond to the prisoners’ demands until they ended their strike would “escalate situation and events in Palestinian districts,” referring to ongoing demonstrations and clashes that have erupted across Gaza and the occupied West Bank since the strike began on April 17.

A spokesperson for the Shin Bet was not immediately available for comment.

Last week
, similar reports surfaced of possible negotiations between the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) and leaders of the hunger strike. However, no negotiations or agreements were confirmed.

In a letter written by hunger-striking prisoner Karim Yunis, the longest serving Palestinian prisoner, Yunis wrote that prisoners had informed IPS administration that the prisoners were “ready for serious negotiations only, and not for any empty sessions or promises.”

The letter, which was published by prisoners rights group Addameer on Monday, stated that “the only body authorized to negotiate are the leaders of the strike,” along the lines of the initial demands of the prisoners, who have called for a long list of basic rights.

“Representatives of the (Israeli) occupation intelligence services have tried to hold false and futile negotiations with us aimed at breaking the hunger strike in exchange for empty promises,” Yunis said, adding that prisoners “do not consider their previous attempts as negotiations, but a way of gaining time.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer from Addameer met on Sunday with imprisoned Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahmad Saadat, who reported continued punitive policies being carried out by IPS against hunger-striking prisoners.

Saadat, who according to Addameer was showing signs of severe fatigue and weight loss of about 10 kilograms, said that hunger strikers were being forced to drink tap water, as their usual drinking water had been confiscated since the strike began.

Additionally, Saadat emphasized that the medical examinations provided in Ohalei Kedar prison were insufficient, as the only things being examined were the striking prisoners’ blood pressure and weight.

Furthermore, Saadat spoke of the deplorable conditions in Section 4, where all hunger-striking prisoners in Ohalei Kedar are being held, noting that 10 prisoners were stuffed into each room, deprived of hygiene supplies and denied access to fans, despite the intense heat.

Saadat’s descriptions of the treatment of prisoners echoed reports of abuse and punitive punishment that began on day one and have been consistent throughout the duration of the strike.

Hunger strikers have been punished by being placed in filthy solitary confinement cells and have also faced physical assault, psychological torture, confiscation of their personal belongings and drinking water, among other humiliating and violent measures.
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