Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have called off a planned hunger strike later this week involving some 1,400 inmates after their demands were met, a Palestinian group said Wednesday.
Tensions have been running high since six inmates staged a dramatic escape from the high-security Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, via a tunnel dug under a sink. Four of them have since been recaptured.
Hundreds of their fellow inmates were then transferred to other jails and personal items were confiscated, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.
The Palestinian Authority’s commission for prisoners had announced plans for a hunger strike from Friday.
Some 1,380 prisoners — out of more than 4,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails — were to start fasting on Friday, to be joined by other inmates next week.
On Wednesday, however, the Prisoners’ Club said it had been decided to “suspend the collective hunger strike after the demands were met” including a “cessation of the collective punishments.”
An Israel Prison Service spokesman said that as of Wednesday, there was no indication that a hunger strike was set to begin, but refused to comment on the claim that prisoners’ demands had been met.
The Palestinian Authority last week likened Israel’s restrictions on prisoners to “Nazism.” The allegation by the PA, which is regularly accused of torturing inmates, came after Palestinian security prisoners rioted in a number of Israel jails and set fire to nine cells in the Ketziot and Ramon prisons in southern Israel. Israeli forces moved to quell the unrest.
The Red Cross has said that Israel has decided to allow visits to prisoners, after they were suspended last week.
Among the Palestinians, the fugitives have been widely regarded as “heroes” who succeeded in freeing themselves from multiple life sentences.
The manhunt continues for the remaining two prisoners: Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, both of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad terror group.
Kamamji was serving a life sentence at the time of his escape, for killing an 18-year-old Israeli in 2006, a murder he reportedly expressed pride in. Nafayat has not been charged with a crime. He was being held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which allows it to imprison suspects without filing charges. Nonetheless, he has been claimed as a member of Islamic Jihad. Belonging to the terror group is illegal under Israeli military law.
The six escaped from Gilboa Prison in the predawn hours last Monday, making their way out through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space underneath the prison.
The escape exposed a series of failures at the prison, and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said last week that he had decided to form a government commission to probe the incident.
Among the apparent lapses were failure to learn lessons from previous escape attempts and several operational blunders, including unmanned watchtowers and sleeping guards.