New details concerning the conclusion of the convicted terrorists’ hunger strike and its causes are coming to light in the hours since the terrorists and the Israel Prison Service (IPS) made their announcements.
As the strike reached its peak, with dozens of terrorists requiring medical attention, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas intervened directly in order to bring the matter to a close out of fear of significant provocations, violent riots and terror attacks.
The beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was a significant motivator, given that terrorists would no longer be able to drink, which they had been doing prior to the holiday.
Since the beginning of the strike, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan decided that dialogue with the terrorists would only be conducted through the IPS, which is subordinate to his ministry. This policy differs from previous incidents when terrorists also negotiated with the Shin Bet and Egyptian intelligence services.
Ynet has learned that Abbas was pressured by various Arab officials to bring about a change in the situation, finally agreeing for the PA to finance the cost of one of the two visits per month terrorists are entitled to with their families.
The cost is estimated to be between $6-7 million per year and was previously financed by the Red Cross, which cut the program following budgetary constraints.
Israel, it should be noted, had no objection to this move because international law requires it to allow two visits per month to prisoners.
However, Israel objected to the notion of financing travel costs for family visits from Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip due to security reasons.
The news of the PA agreeing to finance the second visit was passed to Israeli security officials by Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh. In turn, IPS officials sat with leaders of the strike, including terrorists Nassir Abu Hamid and Ahmad Barghouti, to inform them of the PA’s gesture.
Following the revelation, terrorists requested a meeting to be held at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, which IPS officials agreed to. The meeting lasted from Friday afternoon to early Saturday morning, with terrorists requesting to speak directly with PA officials including al-Sheikh.
Several senior officials involved in the strike told Ynet that the IPS also promised striking terrorists that additional sentences imposed upon them as a result of their strike would be cancelled.
IPS officials were pleased the strike was halted and the promise of no additional punishment as a result of the strike, as well as guaranteed two visits per month to families, gives Muslim Arab terrorists in prison something to show for the effort.
However, it should be noted that none of the demands put forth by arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti—including access to phones—were met.
In total, some 6,200 convicted Muslim Arab terrorists are currently incarcerated in Israel. According to the IPS, some 1,200 terrorists joined the strike at its peak, with only roughly 830 remaining by Friday evening.