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Palestinian Hunger Strike: Israel Agrees To Deal To End Prisoners' Protest

By IAN DEITCH 05/13/12 05:29 PM ET AP

Israel Hunger Strike
In this Friday, May 11, 2012 photo, a picture of Palestinian Omar Abu Shallal, jailed in Israel and on a hunger strike since Aug. 15, sits on the sofa in the living room of his family house, in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

JERUSALEM — Egyptian and Palestinian officials said Sunday they were close to reaching a deal with Israel that would end a mass hunger strike by Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners are on strike, most for a month, but three have refused food for more than 70 days. They launched the strike to press their demands for better conditions and an end to detention without trial.

An Egyptian-drafted proposal calls for Israel to move prisoners currently held in solitary confinement to regular cells, and allow families from Hamas-ruled Gaza to leave the seaside strip to visit imprisoned relatives, an Egyptian official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

It also calls for Israel to ease a policy called "administrative detention" under which some prisoners deemed a security risk can be held indefinitely without charge. Under the draft agreement, that policy would be changed and prisoners will be either charged or released after they are detained.

Palestinian prisoners have yet to review the proposal, and Israeli officials refused comment.

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

Taher Nunu, the spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, said Egyptian mediation efforts were under way, and that he hoped "for an answer within hours" from the prisoners to the proposal.

While the existence of a draft proposal is a significant step forward, it may still face serious obstacles before Israeli officials and Palestinian prisoners agree to a deal.

Still, both sides need to show results. Israel faces the specter of mass demonstrations, and potential violence, when thousands of Palestinians take to the streets Tuesday to commemorate their defeat in the 1948 war surrounding Israel's independence.

The leaders of the Palestinian hunger strikers need to show their people that the nonviolent protest can produce results.

Two of the prisoners staging the longest strike, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, are members of Islamic Jihad, a violent Palestinian militant group that has killed hundreds and injured many more in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks. It is not clear whether they were involved in violence or not.

According to prison officials, at least 1,600 of the 4,600 Palestinians held by Israel are refusing food. Palestinians say about 2,500 prisoners are taking part in the hunger strike.

Many of the Palestinians striking have been convicted of involvement in deadly attacks against civilians. Others, including the longest-striking prisoners, are being held without charge, including Halahleh and Diab.

Israel's prisons service says the hunger strikers are under constant medical supervision and are in stable condition.

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  • In this Wednesday, May 9, 2012 photo, Bara, nephew of Thaer Halahleh, holds a picture of his father, center, and his uncles inside the family house in the West Bank Village of Kharas near Hebron. Thaer, second right in photo, is in administrative detention for the past 24 months and is on a hunger strike for well over 70 days. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Thursday, May 10, 2012 photo, Palestinian Missadeh Diab, 65, poses with presents made by her sons while they were in Israeli jails, at her home in the West Bank village of Kufr Rai. The posters in the background show her son Bilal and read in Arabic, "the strike will continue, Bilal Nabil Diab." (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Thursday, May 10, 2012 photo, a picture of Palestinian Jaffar E'zedin sits on top of a model of the Dome of the Rock which he had made while doing a previous prison sentence, at his family home in the West Bank village of Arrabeh. Jaffar is imrisoned in Israel without charges and is on a hunger strike since the second day after his arrest on March 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Thursday, May 10, 2012 photo, Dalal, mother of Mohammed al-Taj, sits underneath posters showing her son at their family house in the West Bank village of Tubas. Muhammed al-Taj is jailed in Israel and is on a hunger strike since March 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Wednesday, May 9, 2012 photo, pictures from Palestinian friends and relatives jailed in Israel are displayed on the living room of the Halahleh family house in the West Bank Village of Kharas near Hebron. Thaer Halahleh is in administrative detention for the past 24 months and is on a hunger strike for well over 70 days. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Friday, May 11, 2012 photo, a picture of Palestinian Omar Abu Shallal, jailed in Israel and on a hunger strike since Aug. 15, sits on the sofa in the living room of his family house, in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Thursday, May 10, 2012 photo, Missadeh Diab, 65, holds a picture of her son Bilal at her home in the West Bank village of Kufr Rai. Bilal Diab was arrested in August 2011 and held without charges since. Bilal is on a hunger strike since Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Friday, May 11, 2012 photo, Harbiya al-Batall holds a picture of her 33 year old son Hasan Safadi at their family home in the West Bank city of Nablus. Hasan Safadi was arrested on June 29 and is held without charges since. Hasan is on a hunger strike since March 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Thursday, May 10, 2012 photo, pictures of Muhammed al-Taj, jailed in Israel and on a hunger strike since March 15 2012, are seen at his family house in the West Bank village of Tubas, near Jenin, West Bank. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • In this Friday, May 11, 2012 photo, a Palestinian man holds a picture of Omar Abu Shallal, in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus. Omar Shallal was detained without charges on Aug. 15, 2011 and is on hunger strike since March 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)


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