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Fadwa Barghouthi confirms halt of mass hunger strike after misleading reports

May 29, 2017 2:01 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2017 10:24 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After reports emerged early Monday morning that leader of a mass hunger strike Marwan Barghouthi was still refusing meals in Israeli prison two days after the strike ended, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and Barghouthi’s wife Fadwa denied the reports and confirmed that the hunger strike had indeed been fully suspended.

Al Jazeera news network reported in Arabic early Monday morning, quoting a joint statement purportedly issued by the same Palestinian Authority (PA)-run committee and local NGO the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS), that Marwan Barghouthi refused to suspend his hunger strike until he was returned to Hadarim prison and could confirm that all hunger-striking prisoners who were transferred since the beginning of the strike were also returned to their original locations.

The report implied that as of Monday morning, Barghouthi had not given up his strike.

However, Marwan’s wife Fadwa Barghouthi explained that Al Jazeera’s report was misleading, explaining that “the leader of hunger strike should be the last to end hunger strike after he makes sure everything is alright with all other hunger strikers," and confirmed that her husband had been moved back to Hadarim prison after the agreement was reached.

On the first day of the hunger strike, Barghouthi had been taken to a solitary confinement cell in al-Jalama prison, and finally to Ashkelon to take part in the final negotiations.

Commenting on the information in Al Jazeera's report, Fadwa said, “This was a procedural issue and should not be interpreted that Marwan remained on hunger strike."

Fadwa added that "so far, I haven't been allowed to visit Marwan, and the Israeli Prison Service stipulates that his lawyer must obtain a permission from the judicial adviser of the Israeli government in order to visit him."

Her comments were corroborated by director of the Bethlehem office of the prisoners' committee Munqith Abu Atwan, who told Ma’an that Barghouthi refused to eat before he made sure that hunger-striking prisoners were returned to their original locations.

“Barghouthi headed negotiations that led to the decision to end hunger strike, but he notified the Prisoners’ Affairs Committee that he would not eat until all other hunger strikers were safe and sound and that they all started to eat first, to ensure that the Israel Prison Service would not impose any punishments on the prisoners,” he said.

The committee previously reported that the hunger strike’s conclusion came after 20 hours of negotiations with the Israel Prison Service (IPS), which saw 80 percent of the strike’s demands met by IPS.

Head of the committee Issa Qaraqe formally announced the results of the hunger strike in a news conference in Ramallah city on Monday, in the presence of the head of PPS Qaddura Fares and the head of the Higher Follow Up Committee for Prisoners' Affairs Amin Shoman.

However, an IPS spokesperson has denied the committee’s narrative to Ma’an, and said that the only outcome of the strike was the restoration of family visitation sessions for prisoners to two times a month, resulting from an agreement made between the PA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in which the PA would fund the second visit, which was formerly facilitated by the ICRC until the international organization suspended it last year.

It should be noted that PPS said back in August 2016 that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had already approved a decision to cover all financial expenses for the second visitation.

Since the strike’s suspension, the only statement apparently released from the prison leadership, apart from updates from Barghouthi being conveyed by the PA and his family, came from imprisoned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat, who had joined the strike on its 17th day.

Saadat issued a cautious congratulation to hungers strikers on Sunday for their apparent victory, in the absence of an official statement from the strike's leadership, as reports regarding the outcome of the strike had so far only emerged from the PA-run committee and IPS.

"While it is too early to provide a final assessment of the achievements of the strike before the official statement of the strike leadership, we can say clearly that the inability of the occupation to break the strike or contain it is a victory for the prisoners and for their will and determination to continue the confrontation," he wrote in a statement from Israel’s Ramon prison, published Sunday by Palestinian prisoners solidarity network Samidoun.

Saadat highlighted that “the confrontation does not end with the strike; Instead, it must continue in order to strengthen the achievements of the strike, expand them and build on them.”
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