Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have agreed to end a mass hunger strike after winning concessions from the Jewish state to improve their conditions, reports say.
Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said Palestinian prisoner leaders signed the deal on Monday afternoon after several hours of negotiations at a jail in the Israeli port city of Ashkelon, the Associated Press reports.
A Palestinian negotiator, speaking to the news agency anonymously, said Israel had agreed to end solitary confinement for inmates and allow prisoners from both the West Bank and Gaza to receive family visits.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency and Palestinian militant groups confirmed that a deal – which was brokered by Egyptian mediators – had been struck. “All of the factions signed an agreement to end the strike,” Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told the Agence France Presse.
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The deal came as International Red Cross officials warned that several of the 1,600 inmates on strike were close to death, and urged Israel to transfer them to hospital for emergency treatment, according to Channel 4 News.
Most of the prisoners have been staging a hunger strike since mid-April, mainly in protest at Israel's policy of "administrative detention", which allows anyone viewed as posing a security threat to be held indefinitely without charge. Two members of the group have been refusing food for 77 days.
According to Sky News, Monday’s deal was proposed by the Israeli prison authorities due to concerns that any prisoner’s death would spark violence in the Palestinian Territories.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had warned Israel that he would not be able to stop any violence that did erupt, while both the UN and the Quartet Representative Tony Blair had also called for a swift resolution of the crisis.
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