EU tries to revive peace amid prisoners' hunger strike

21:25, April 07, 2010      

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As France is working on a joint European-American initiative to revive the stalled Middle East peace process, more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on Wednesday went on a hunger strike.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Tuesday in Paris that Europe and the United States are working on a joint initiative to revive the peace process in fall, though the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) said Wednesday it is not aware of it.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told "Voice of Palestine" Radio on Wednesday that the PNA "is not aware of what French President Nicolas Sarkozy had announced earlier in Paris that Europe and the United States will present the peace initiative in fall."

"We know nothing about this initiative, however, the Palestinian leadership is more focusing now on the U.S. efforts to revive the stalled peace talks which are obstructed by the Israeli practices and violations, mainly the expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem," said Erekat.

Erekat called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze immediately all its settlements' expansion plans, including the natural growth, mainly in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Although the PNA accepted a U.S. proposal to launch indirect talks with Israel for four months, which was backed by the Arab League, the plan was obstructed following Israel's approval of a recent plan to build 1,600 new housing units in a settlement near East Jerusalem.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu had almost accepted most of the U.S. demands mentioned in its plan to resume the talks, however, construction of settlements in East Jerusalem is still a disputed issue in Israel.

Meanwhile, more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in 13 Israeli jails started on Wednesday an open-ended hunger strike to pressure on the Israeli prisons' authorities to improve their deteriorated living conditions.

The Palestinian ministry for prisoner affairs said in a press statement that more than 7,000 prisoners launched on Wednesday a hunger strike in 10 Israeli prisons and three detention camps.

The Prisoners Center for Studies said that the Israeli prisons' authorities held talks with the prisoners' leaders in several prisons trying to urge them not to go for a hunger strike, adding "the Israeli attempts have so far failed."

"There are five major demands for the prisoners in order to halt their hunger strike," said the center in a press statement, adding "these demands are legal and were guaranteed by the international laws."

The prisoners want Israel to stop humiliating their families at Israeli roadblocks and the gates of the prisons and allow the families of Gaza Strip to visit their children in Israeli jails.

The families of the prisoners from the Gaza Strip had not visited their sons and daughters in Israeli jails for four years, according to the center. Israel has been imposing a tight blockade on the enclave ruled by Hamas movement.

Among the demands also, is to allow hundreds of families from the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the Israeli Arabs to visit their children in the prisons. Many families are not allowed to visit the prisons for security reasons.

The prisoners had also demanded to let them watch the Qatari Satellite TV of al-Jazeera and allow books brought with their families. In addition, the prisoners want Israel to allow high school students to do their exams in jail.

"This is the first step of its kind for several years which is carried out by the prisoners who are unified in their legal demands," Ra'fat Hamdouna, chairman of the center, told reporters.

Source: Xinhua


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