Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have agreed to end their weeks-long hunger strike after Israel agreed to improve jail conditions.
The deal ended a strike in which prisoners had gone without food for up to 77 days, leaving several close to death. It was the longest strike ever staged by Palestinians in Israeli custody.
With the Palestinians set to hold an annual day of mourning, both sides were eager to wrap up a deal to lower tensions. The Palestinians are marking what they call the “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” the term they use in describing the suffering that resulted from Israel’s establishment 64 years ago.
The Palestinian minister for Prisoner Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said that Palestinian prisoner leaders signed the deal at an Israeli prison in Ashkelon.
Two men launched the strike on February 27, and were joined by hundreds of others on April 17.
Among their demands were permission to receive family visits from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, an end to solitary confinement and a halt to an Israeli policy of “administrative detention,” under which suspected militants are held for months, and sometimes years, without being charged.
Israel has defended the policy as a necessary security measure.
Israel said 1,600 prisoners, or more than a third of the 4,500 Palestinians held by Israel, joined the hunger strike. Palestinians said the number was closer to 2,500.
The fate of the prisoners is an emotional issue in Palestinian society, where nearly everyone has a neighbour or relative who has spent time in an Israeli jail. As the strike dragged on, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of the West Bank and Gaza to demonstrate in solidarity.
For families of the prisoners, any deal that did not win their freedom fell short.