Palestinian prisoners end hunger strikes

Wednesday 25 June 2014 21.32
A Palestinian woman gestures to a member of Palestinian security forces after protesters were asked to stop a demonstration to express solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike
A Palestinian woman gestures to a member of Palestinian security forces after protesters were asked to stop a demonstration to express solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike

Scores of Palestinians on hunger-strike have ended their protest against detention without trial after winning limited concessions from Israel but no major change of policy.

About 120 Palestinians on so-called "administrative detention" began fasting on 24 April and were joined over the past two months by 180 others.

About 75 needed hospitalisation, fuelling debate in Israel over a proposed force-feeding law.

Qadoura Fares, a Palestinian official acting as an advocate for the prisoners, said the hunger-strike had been suspended overnight with Israel agreeing to remove punishments imposed on the inmates and to other measures affecting them in prison.

"We are not talking about a big, clear victory in the procedural, practical sense, but we are talking an improvement in addressing the issue of administrative detention," Mr Fares said, without giving further details.

Israel and the prisoners would also "continue the dialogue over administrative detention", he told reporters.

An Israeli official confirmed that the Prisons Service would not punish the former hunger-strikers.

Such sanctions could have included fines or reassigning inmates to different prison wings.

But Israel stood firm on its administrative detention policy, under which Palestinians suspected of security offences can be jailed for protracted periods without trial to avoid any court proceedings that could expose sensitive intelligence information.

The practice has drawn international criticism.

The end of the hunger strike "is an important landmark in the State of Israel's insistence on its right to protect itself using all means, including administrative detention as required," Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said.

There are at least 5,400 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Israel's parliament had been due to vote this week on a bill backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would enable force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners on hunger-strike.

The vote was postponed as politicians debated the scope of the law.

The Israeli Medical Association, which represents most of the country's doctors, has denounced force-feeding as unethical.