Palestinian prisoners end hunger strike

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Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have agreed to end their hunger strike.

The May 14 agreement, mediated by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority,  ends one of the largest mass strikes of Palestinian prisoners. Two men launched the strike on Feb. 28, refusing food for 77 days. At least 1,600 other Palestinian prisoners, more than a third of the prison population, joined the strike on April 17, fasting for 27 days.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad had threatened consequences if any of the hunger strikers died.

The prisoners signed a commitment to halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons. In return, Israel agreed to ease the conditions under which the prisoners are being held. These include returning prisoners held in separation to the general prison wings and allowing family visits by first-degree relatives for security prisoners from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Visits from Gaza were stopped in 2006 after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured and held in Gaza.

Israel had been reluctant to concede to the Palestinian demands, worried it would spark more collective action. Officials noted that many of the hunger strikers were convicted of perpetrating, or being involved in, attacks that killed civilians. — jta & ap