Hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel end hunger strike

More than 300 Palestinian prisoners halt a hunger strike after Israel agree to end ‘humiliating’ body searches

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More than 300 Palestinian prisoners on Saturday halted a hunger strike after Israel prison authorities agreed to end “humiliating” body searches and return recently transferred prisoners, a rights group said.

The detainees, all members of the Islamist Hamas movement, started the strike on Wednesday to protest a prison crackdown during which some were placed in solitary confinement, personal belongings seized and prisoners transferred to other facilities.

They agreed to end the strike after prison authorities said they would “stop humiliating naked body searches” and “return recently transferred prisoners,” the Palestinian Prisoners Club said.

The Israel Prisons Service said on Friday that it had moved Hamas prisoners, searched cells and seized mobile phones earlier in the week, acting on “intelligence information about direction of terror from inside prisons.”

But dozens of prisoners from the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) continued on Saturday to refuse food in solidarity with prisoner Bilal Kayed, who has been fasting for 53 days over his detention without trial, said the Prisoners Club.

Kayed was to be released in June after serving a 14-and-a-half-year sentence for activities in the PFLP, labelled a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the United States.

Instead, Israeli authorities ordered that he remain in custody under the administrative detention law, which allows prisoners to be held without trial for renewable six-month periods.

Kayed, 35, is suffering from failing kidneys and has lost at least 30 kilos (65 pounds), Palestinian officials say.

Israel says administrative detention allows authorities to hold suspects while continuing to gather evidence, while Palestinians, human rights groups and members of the international community have criticized the system.

Of more than 7,500 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails, around 700 are being held under administrative detention, Palestinian rights groups say.

Palestinians have regularly gone on hunger strike in protest at their detention.

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