Palestinian prisoners plan hunger strike as talks resume
Scores of Palestinians who were rearrested by Israel after being freed in a prisoner exchange are to stage a hunger strike Tuesday as truce talks resume in Cairo, officials said.
The Ramallah-based Prisoners’ Club said Monday the strike will be observed by 63 prisoners who were among a group of 1,027 freed by Israel under the terms of a 2011 swap arrangement.
They have all since been rearrested.
Since mid-June, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and subsequently killed by Palestinian militants, Israel has arrested more than 2,000 people across the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, a club statement said.
The strike is timed to coincide with the resumption of indirect truce talks in Cairo aimed at cementing the terms of a ceasefire deal which ended 50 days of fighting in and around Gaza, and which went into effect on August 26.
The two sides agreed to resume talks within a month of that date to discuss several tough issues, including the possibility of a new swap arrangement.
Such a trade would involve the Islamist Hamas group releasing the remains of two soldiers killed in the Gaza war in exchange for Israel freeing an unspecified number of prisoners.
The hunger strikers’ aim was to “demand that the Palestinian negotiators find a solution to the situation and ensure their release as quickly as possible”, the statement said.
The talks are not expected to last more than one day as the Jewish New Year holiday begins at sundown on Wednesday, and it was not clear how long the planned hunger strike would last.
Bassem al-Salhi, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, told AFP Tuesday’s meeting would “allow a timetable to be put in place for (talks which would take place) after Eid al-Adha”, the Muslim feast of sacrifice which this year falls on the first weekend of October.
“Since the start, the Palestinians have asked that the prisoners question be discussed, but the Israelis have categorically refused to deal with this matter,” he said, referring to talks in the run-up to the August ceasefire deal.
In Cairo, the two teams are expected to discuss Gaza’s reconstruction, a Palestinian demand for a port and an airport and Israel’s insistence on militant groups disarming.
Figures quoted by the Prisoners’ Club indicate that more than 7,000 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails.