Deal Close to End Prisoners' Hunger Strike

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel reportedly accepted an Egyptian-mediated deal ending a nearly month-long hunger strike by Palestinian Arab prisoners, almost all imprisoned for terror-related activities.

About 1,600 prisoners took part in the strike, which began April 17 and focused mainly on administrative detention of terror suspects. Solitary confinement and visiting permits for families in the Gaza Strip were included in the deal.

Prisoners also lobbied to lift sanctions imposed during negotiations for the release of former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by a Hamas-led terror cell in June 2006. During the more than five years that Hamas imprisoned Shalit, he was denied visits by the International Red Cross and his family.

Before Israel clamped down during talks for Shalit's release, Palestinian prisoners had opportunities for academic studies, access to books and other materials, while serving out their sentences.

Last week, Arabs held solidarity protests in Gaza, Hebron and Nablus (biblical Shechem).

At a rally in Jaffa, Israeli Arab Knesset member Jamal Zahalka warned of "huge riots" and an impending intifada (armed uprising) "if Israel does not meet their demands."

Earlier this year, two Islamic Jihad terrorists -- Khader Adnan and  Hana Shalabi -- achieved release through hunger strikes, inspiring other prisoners to employ the same tactic.

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