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As prisoners recover from grueling strike, IPS maintains no demands were met

May 30, 2017 6:01 P.M. (Updated: May 31, 2017 10:59 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Days after hundreds of Palestinian prisoners suspended their 40-day mass hunger strike, Israel Prison Service (IPS) lifted punitive measures imposed on the former hunger strikers, as Palestinian prisoners have struggled to regain their health. Meanwhile, IPS has continued to maintain that none of the prisoners' demands were accepted in the agreement with Palestinian leaders that ended the strike.

Throughout the strike, which was launched on April 17 under the leadership of imprisoned Fatah official Marwan Barghouthi, IPS conducted a series of punitive punishments against striking prisoners, which included frequent transfers within and between prisons, as well as transfers to solitary confinement.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said in a statement Tuesday that all prisoners who were transferred to different prisons during the hunger strike were returned to the prisons in which they had initially been held in before the start of the strike.

"All punitive procedures imposed in the beginning of the strike were also lifted,” the committee reported, referring to the limitation on lawyer visits, assaults of prisoners, frequent and violent cell searches, among other measures.

The committee noted that the health conditions of prisoners at the Ashkelon prison were “still difficult,” following the strike, pointing out that the prisoners were currently consuming fluids and vitamins “to regain their physical power.”

The suspension of the hunger strike, which took place on Saturday, was hailed as a victory by many Palestinian officials, with the committee previously reporting that 80 percent of the strike’s demands were met.

The hunger-striking prisoners had been 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.

After the strike ended in the early hours on Saturday following 20 hours of negotiations, Palestinian officials did not immediately reveal details regarding the achievements of the hunger strike. An IPS spokesperson only confirmed that family visitation sessions were restored to two times a month, adding that IPS was not considering the talks "negotiations," as they only reinstated a previous policy and did not provide any new concessions to the prisoners.

On Monday, the Internal Affairs Committee of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, held a session regarding the strike, during which an IPS official maintained that “at no point did IPS negotiate with the hunger-striking security prisoners, and it did not accept any of their demands.”

“In the past, the second monthly visit was fully funded by the Red Cross, which paid for the buses for the families,” senior IPS official Asher Vaknin told the committee.

“The Red Cross decided to pull the funding. During the strike, the Palestinian Authority decided to fund the transport of the families to the prisons, thus allowing a second monthly visit, and we informed the prisoners of this. They decided that this would suffice. We did not cancel the second monthly visit, and we did not reinstate it either,” Vaknin said.

Throughout the meeting, various right-wing Israeli lawmakers criticized the strike’s demands, with one MK saying that “they [prisoners] should be given the minimal conditions in accordance with international law,” and another saying that “If we were to do the right thing, every terrorist would get a bullet to the head. There is enough room underground.”

Committee Chairman MK David Amsalem of the right-wing Likud party, said he was shocked by the hunger-strikers' ”silly demands” and was pleased that IPS did not negotiate with the prisoners.

”Most democratic countries do not treat terrorists as well as we do,” he said. ”A terrorist should sit in jail and get dry bread and a glass of water. It is rude to demand studies. Those who want to wage a hunger strike, let them wage a hunger strike. You don’t want to eat, don't eat. It was important for me to hear that the State did not move from its initial position, and no one threatens us with strikes.”

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of April, most of whom are being held inside the Israeli territory in contravention to international law which forbids holding Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza outside the occupied territory.

While Israeli authorities label Palestinians as “security prisoners,” activists and rights groups have long considered Palestinians held in Israeli custody as political prisoners, and have routinely condemned Israel’s use of prison as a means of dislocating Palestinian political and social life in the occupied territory.

Addameer has reported that 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been detained by Israeli authorities at some point in their lives.

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