Palestinian political prisoners ended their hunger strike last week after the Israeli Prison Authority entered negotiations with prisoner representatives and agreed to establish an investigative committee to look into the prisoners' demands.
The strike, which began Sept. 27, was called off in the northern prisons - led by Jneid Prison - Oct. 11, and in the southern prisons - led by Nafha Prison - Oct. 15.
A one-day partial hunger strike was observed in all prisons following the death of one of the striking prisoners, Hussein Ibeiday, Oct. 14.
Representatives of the Arab Lawyers Association outlined the prisoners' demands in a meeting Oct. 13 with Israeli Police Minister Moshe Shahal and Prison Commissioner Gabi Amir. To date, Israeli authorities have refused to meet most of the demands, agreeing only to "look into humanitarian issues the police ministry had, in any case, for some time planned to investigate."
Prison Commissioner Amir said the demands that will be met include more educational opportunities; longer family visits; installation of ventilators in the cells; and building a taller TV antenna to pick up Jordanian and Syrian television, instead of only Israeli TV.
But negotiators are still facing a deadlock on more crucial demands. These include closure of the isolation cells in Nitzan and Beer Sheba prisons and releasing prisoners who are too sick or too old to pose a security threat but are serving long-term prison sentences.
Other demands that vary from prison to prison - such as quality of food, exercise time, shortages of water, etc. - will be negotiated by prisoner representatives and Israeli authorities in each prison individually.
The end of the strike brought a gradual end to the numerous solidarity sit-ins at Red Cross offices throughout the occupied territories.
The hunger strike prompted spontaneous violent confrontations with Israeli troops throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, resulting in the death of at least 14 Palestinians by Israeli gunfire and the injury of more than 500 Palestinians.
As confrontations with Israeli troops escalated, most cities in the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem, became reminiscent of the early days of the Intifada. Most reminiscent was Israeli Prime and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin's promise to use force to quell the protests.
Downtown areas usually crowded with shoppers were relatively empty and there was an apparent increase in the number of Israeli military patrols. By the end of the week, as it seemed the crisis was close to a settlement, demonstrations subsided slightly.
The most violent clashes took place in the Gaza Strip. By October 15, more than 800,000 Gazans were placed under curfew. Israeli authorities also announced the closure of several schools in Gaza and the West Bank until further notice because of anti-occupation demonstrations that had occurred there.
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