On May 15 some 1,400 prisoners ended a prolonged hunger strike after Israel promised to renew family visits, end the practice of solitary confinement, and limit the use of administrative detention. However, in several incidents since then, Israel has broken the terms of the deal made on that day. The human rights group Addameer said in a press release on May 24, that numerous orders for administrative detention have been issued since the agreement earlier this month. It also said that one of the longest-striking prisoners, Bilal Diab, had been denied a visit from his mother by prison officials, despite the agreement to allow such visits.
Further, Mahmoud Sarsak (25), who is one of two prisoners that remain on hunger strike, is being held under more stringent rules than most prisoners and has not yet been given a release date, despite being promised that he would be released in July. Sarsak, a member of the Palestinian football team, was arrested three years ago and has never been charged with any crime. He is being held under Israel's "unlawful combatant" law, which allows Israel to detain people for unlimited periods without trial or charge. On May 22, his lawyer said that Sarsakís weight had dropped from 65 kg to under 40 kg.
Another incident this week, where Israel broke the deal made with the hunger striking prisoners is the case of prisoner Sameh Elaiwe (50) who was transferred from Nablus city to Administrative Detention one hour before his scheduled release date. On May 22 the Israeli military brought Elaiwe's case before the court and ordered his release for the following day. However, Israeli intelligence petitioned to overturn the decision after Elaiwe's lawyer had left the court, and the Court transferred the prisoner to the administrative detention centre for four months. More than 25 cases have been transferred to Administrative Detention since the Israeli prisons administration and the Supreme Committee for Prisoners signed their agreement on May 14th.
On May 24 the Prisonerís society lawyers club confirmed that prisoners in Huwarra returned their meals to the administration, refusing to eat. In this hunger strike, the prisoners demand improved treatment and seek to heed prisonerís requests which have gone unnoticed.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, May 20, officials from Hamas and Fatah announced that they have agreed on a new timetable for a power-sharing deal that envisions elections in about six months. Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said his party signed an agreement with Hamas in Cairo late Sunday to accelerate the reconciliation process. Under the deal, the Palestinian Elections Commission will begin work in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on May 27, after which President Mahmoud Abbas will immediately begin consultations on a consensus government as previously agreed by the party leaders. Members of new cabinet will be agreed on within 10 days from the start of consultations.
Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, have been attempting to implement a reconciliation agreement brokered by Egypt and signed last year in Cairo. As reconciliation efforts have stalled repeatedly, it is unclear if Sunday's deal would end the impasse.
On May 23 British Foreign Secretary William Hague told his visiting Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman that Israelís settlement expansion in Jerusalem and the West Bank harms its international standing. ĒI made clear the UKís concern about the current stalemate in the Middle East peace process, and our view that there is an urgent need for progress,Ē Hague told Lieberman when they met on Tuesday according to a press release. ďI expressed the UKís firm view that continued illegal Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is harming Israel's international standing and endangering the two-state solution,Ē he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers continue exerting violence against Palestinians in several incidents this week. On May 22, Israeli settlers attacked several homes during a march through a village near Bethlehem, witnesses said. Dozens of settlers threw rocks at homes and shops in Tuqu and shut down the main road, preventing cars from entering the village. Israeli soldiers were stationed at the entrances to Tuqu and were protecting the settlers, witnesses added.
On May 24, Israeli settlers torched farmland near Nablus in the northern West Bank, according to a PA official. Residents of Yitzhar settlement set fire to large swathes of agricultural land in Madma village. According to witnesses villagers clashed with the settlers and Israeli forces intervened and detained two Palestinians. On May 20, an Israeli human rights group released footage of settlers firing on a Nablus village, and called on Israel's military to investigate the assailants, as well as the army's role. The armed settlers were shown entering Asira al-Qibliya and throwing rocks at properties in the village, which borders Yitzhar settlement, before the arrival of Israeli forces. Nimir Fathi, 24, was shot in the neck, while Ahmad Jaber Jibrel, 30, was hit in the face with a rock.
In other news, PA Prime Minister Salem Fayyad said on Monday 21, that Israelís control of Palestinian water resources in the West Bank is responsible for the water crisis. Opening a conference on water and the prospects for agricultural development in Palestine, Fayyed said that a strategic vision and a long-term plan are needed to resolve the crisis. Conference president Mahmud Rahil pointed out that the water issue is a political matter as Israel controls 85% of the water resources in the West Bank. Palestinians consume on average around 70 litres a day, while settlers consume 300 litres a day. Furthermore, settlers use the water resources to irrigate and produce agricultural goods for export while families in the West Bank are finding it hard to feed their own families from their own agriculture.
Finally, a recent decision by the minister of trade and industry in South Africa to remove ďMade in IsraelĒ tags on products that are actually made in the West Bank settlements may be adopted in Denmark as well. Danish Foreign Minister Villy SÝvndal said to the newspaper Politiken that such a step would ďclearly show consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of.Ē