Palestinian hunger strike deal 'within reach'

An agreement that would end the hunger strike of some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has been reached in Cairo, pending approval by a strikers' committee, a senior Palestinian official told Al Jazeera.

"An agreement was reached in Cairo today [Sunday] on a proposal to end the hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners," Issa Karaka, head of the Palestinian prison authority, told Al Jazeera.

"We are now waiting for hunger strikers’ committee to determine their position".

Palestinian officials on Saturday said Egyptian officials were trying to mediate between the strikers and Israel.

Karaka told Al Jazeera the main points of the agreement were ensuring an end to solitary confinement of prisoners; allowing families of prisoners from Gaza to visit; and halting the renewal of "administrative detention", under which some prisoners deemed a security risk can be held indefinitely without charge.

Taher al-Nono, spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza, earlier told the Reuters news agency: "We hope the intensive efforts by Egypt [mediatiors] to meet the prisoners' demands will reach a positive conclusion in the coming hours."

Draft plan

A Palestinian official who is close to the talks told Reuters the deal may be brought before the prisoners as early as Monday.

The deal "should be presented to prisoners in the Israeli jails, possibly Monday morning, for endorsement before an official announcement," said the official, who was speaking under condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Most of the prisoners that are on hunger strike have refused food for a month, but three have refused food for more than 70 days. The inmates launched the strike to press their demands for better conditions and an end to detention without trial.

Under the draft agreement, administrative detention would be changed and prisoners would be either charged or released after they were detained.

A Palestinian lawyer representing the prisoners confirmed the details of the proposal, and said Egyptian officials had presented it to the Israelis.

Health concerns

Israel's prisons service says that 1,550 Palestinian prisoners are currently refusing food. Palestinian activists however say that as many as 2,500 of the 4,600 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons are currently on hunger strike.

The inmates launched their hunger strike on April 17 to demand improved conditions in Israeli custody. They have also challenged Israel's policy of administrative detention.

International bodies, uncluding the World Health Organisation, have expressed concern for the health of the hunger strikers and urged Israel to give them quick and suitable care and medical treatment.

Israel says all prisoners receive adequate medical attention, including in civilian hospitals if required.

The hunger strikes have widespread support among Palestinians who have staged regular demonstrations in solidarity with the prisoners.

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