Israeli and Egyptian officials are making progress in attempts to end a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, some of them close to death, Gaza's Hamas prime minister said on Saturday.
“There was progress in talks between Egypt and Israel,” Ismail Haniya said in a statement. “This is an important development concerning the demands of the prisoners.”
Egypt helped broker a deal in which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was freed in October after more than five years of being held by Gaza militants in exchange for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons. Haniya has asked for its intervention in the current hunger strike.
Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said on Saturday that 1,550 Palestinian prisoners are currently refusing food in protest against solitary confinement, detention without charge and restrictions on family visits, education and various privileges.
She told AFP that it had been decided to move two prisoners from solitary confinement but could not say on Saturday if the decision had been implemented yet.
The World Health Organization on Friday urged Israel to give quick and suitable health care to Palestinian hunger strikers, including their transfer to civilian hospitals.
The U.N. agency said it was “extremely concerned” about their health, noting one suffered from the genetic blood disorder thalassaemia and has “refused his regular life-saving blood transfusions in addition to food.”
“WHO calls on the Israeli authorities to ensure immediate and adequate access to appropriate ongoing health care for the hunger-strikers,” it said in a statement from its Jerusalem office.
“WHO also requests Israel to ensure that... release to hospital be facilitated for prisoners requiring medical treatment.”
The hunger strikes have drawn international attention, with the European Union and United Nations expressing concern.
Two of those protesting, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, marked their 74th day without food on Saturday.
The hunger strikes have widespread support among Palestinians who have staged regular demonstrations in solidarity with the prisoners.
On Friday, a 20-year-old Palestinian was seriously wounded in the eye by Israeli fire during a solidarity protest in the West Bank village of Abud, near Ramallah, Palestinian medical sources said.
Thousands of Palestinians took part in rallies in the Gaza Strip and across the occupied West Bank, including Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
Later Saturday, a joint Arab-Jewish rally was scheduled for Tel Aviv's mixed Jaffa neighborhood.