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Red Cross to support a second monthly visit for families of Palestinian prisoners

Protests have been held in the occupied West Bank and Gaza in support of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike
ABBAS MOMANI (AFP/File)
The agreement fulfills one of the demands of a mass 40-day hunger strike led by Palestinian prisoners

In cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it will help facilitate monthly visits of family members and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, one of the main demands of a prisoner-led hunger strike earlier this year, Israeli media reported on Thursday.

“The ICRC committed to providing technical support to the PA and helping establish a framework that will empower and enable the PA to provide this essential humanitarian service,” said Rima Kamal, an official from the ICRC according to the Times of Israel.

Specifically, the PA accepted responsibility over the logistics and funding for a second monthly visit from family members of Palestinian prisoners, Kamal added.

The agreement essentially fulfills one of the demands of the some one thousand Palestinian prisoners who went on a 40-day hunger strike earlier this year.

The strike, led by the imprisoned prominent Fatah figure Marwan Barghouti and dubbed the "Freedom and Dignity" strike, was one of the largest carried out by Palestinian prisoners and sought to seek better conditions for inmates.

Israeli ministers argued that the strike was motivated by internal Palestinian politics and not humanitarian issues. Barghouti, however, accused Israel of "inhumane" treatment of prisoners and "judicial apartheid" to which a hunger strike was "the most peaceful form of resistance available."

He is currently serving five life sentences for murders committed during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

TAL COHEN (AFP/File)

Among their other demands were access to telephones, improved medical care and an end to punitive solitary confinement.

The Israeli prison service initially said that no negotiations were to take place between the Palestinian prisoners and Israeli officials, but confirmed that prisoners would be allowed two visits, instead of one, with family members per month, accommodating one of the demands made.

The issue of visitation is generally administered solely by the Red Cross and not Israel. Last year, the organization cut back on the number allowed claiming a lack of funds and little family interest.

Israel said that the deal was negotiated only between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Authority.

Of the some 1,600 prisoners who began striking 40 days ago, some 834 prisoners remained on strike by its end.

Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale. The last large-scale hunger strike was in February 2013, when 3,000 Palestinians refused to eat for one day to protest against the death of a fellow detainee.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the ICRC were funding the visit of prisoners' families. This story has been amended to reflect the fact that the ICRC are only providing technical support for the Palestinian Authority, who are funding the visit. 

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