Prisoners group says Israel agreed to scrap isolation policy 16Oct11 October 16, 2011

Ma’an News Agency  -  15 October 2011

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities told Palestinian prisoners they will end solitary confinement in jails with the exception of three Hamas-affiliated detainees, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society said Saturday.

Qadura Fares told Ma’an Israeli prison officers said they will completely end the policy of isolation cells, a key demand of a prisoners hunger strike that entered its 19th day on Saturday.

“This is a good sign that the issue of isolating (prisoners) will end and reach a resolution,” Qadura said.

The prison administration will seek approval from Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet. Officers in Israel’s Ramon prison told detainees that the Shin Bet agreed to end isolation bar three Hamas cadres, he said.

Abdullah Barghouti, Ibrahim Hamed, and Mahmoud Issa — members of Hamas’s military wing — will remain in solitary confinement.

Fares told Ma’an that the exceptions would block a solution to the issue. The three prisoners must be released from isolation, he said, adding that they should be released as part of an exchange deal agreed by Israel and Hamas this week.

The Hamas militants have not appeared on prisoner release lists under the deal to free over 1,000 Palestinians from Tuesday in exchange for captured Israeli solider Gilad Shalit.

Spokesman for the detainees ministry in Gaza Riyad al-Ashkar says more than 22 prisoners are currently in solitary confinement in Israeli jails.

Fares called for attention to the hunger strike and the impact it was having on detainees’ health after 19 days without food.

Detainees launched the strike to protest worsening conditions in Israeli jails on Sept. 27, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to toughen measures against the 6,000 odd Palestinians in Israeli jail.

Rights group Addameer called on Thursday for the international community to relaunch efforts to end what it called “collective punishment” of prisoners, as Shalit was set to be freed.

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