Palestinian prisoners in Israel suspend hunger strike

A mass hunger strike staged by Palestinian prisoners over conditions in Israeli jails was suspended on Saturday after a deal with Israel, officials said.

About 1,500 inmates launched the action on April 17, in one of the largest such strikes.

The 40-day hunger strike raised tensions with Israel as protests in support of the strikers spilled over into clashes in the occupied West Bank and along the Israel-Gaza border.

More than 800 prisoners, who had stuck with the hunger strike until Saturday, ended it after talks held with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Authority concluded in an agreement with Israel, allowing prisoners to receive two visitors per month.

Issa Karaka, Chairman of Prisoners’ Affairs at the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), confirmed the inmates had agreed to stop the strike.

WATCH: What’s behind Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike?

On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged Israel to improve conditions for Palestinians in its custody.

Both Karaka and the Israeli Prisons Service did not initially divulge the full details of the agreement. However, the Prison Service did say that a second monthly family visit would be reinstated after it had been cut in the past.

The strike was called by Marwan Barghouti, the most high-profile Palestinian jailed in Israel, to protest against solitary confinement and an Israeli practice of detention without trial that has been applied to thousands of prisoners since the 1980s.

Other demands included longer and more regular family visits, landlines installed in prisons and better healthcare.

Palestinian activists hailed the deal as a victory for the hunger strikers.

“The Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have prevailed,” the Free Marwan Barghouti campaign said in statement.

“This is an important step towards full respect of the rights of Palestinian prisoners under international law. It is also an indication of the reality of the Israeli occupation, which has left no option to Palestinian prisoners but to starve themselves to achieve basic rights they are entitled to under international law,” the statement added.

READ MORE: How my father survived a hunger strike in Israel

Barghouti, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, was convicted for his involvement in the second Palestinian intifada, and sentenced in 2004 to five life terms.

Surveys show many Palestinians want him to be their next president.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies