Hunger strike by Palestinians to protest conditions in Israeli jails cancelled

Demands made by prisoners after tensions were running high following escape of six inmates

Arab Israeli protesters lift Palestinian flags and placards showing six prisoners who escaped from Israel's Gilboa prison. AFP
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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, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club said on Wednesday.

Tensions have been running high since six militants staged a dramatic escape from a high-security jail 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 transferred to other jails, and personal items were confiscated, according to the Palestinian Prisoners' Club. Angry prisoners had started fires in several jails.

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.

“The situation is very bad in the prisons,” Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Authority's commission for prisoners, told the AFP on Tuesday. "That's why they're going on hunger strike."

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 Red Cross said Israel had decided to allow prisoner visits that were suspended last week.

But Mr Abu Bakr also expressed his concern over the fate of the four escapees now recaptured, who the Red Cross has not been allowed to visit.

Palestinian lawyer Khaled Mahjana told AFP he would meet two of the four – Yaqub Qadri and Mohammad Ardah – on Tuesday evening.

Mr Abu Bakr also expressed fears for the health of another recaptured fugitive, Zakaria Zubeidi, following social media reports he had been sent to hospital.

Prison authorities said Monday he was still in custody and had not been hospitalised.

Updated: September 15, 2021, 4:23 PM