UN asks Israel to resolve inmates hunger strike
Rights laws cited; 2,600 Palestinians demand transfer
JERUSALEM -- The United Nations urged Israel yesterday to find a solution to a 13-day-old hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, reminding Israel of its obligations under international law and human rights conventions.
The 2,600 striking inmates are demanding, among other things, to be transferred to facilities in or along frontiers with the West Bank and Gaza Strip to enable visits from family members, who are barred from entering Israel.
Terje Roed-Larsen, the Mideast envoy for the UN, issued a statement yesterday urging Israel to "comply with its international obligations and to make every effort to find, with the prisoners, an appropriate resolution to the hunger strike."
Meanwhile, 350 prisoners who joined the strike 10 days ago called off their protest yesterday, Israeli Prisons Authority spokesman Ofer Lefler said. The prisoners were accompanied by doctors when they resumed eating, he added.
There was no confirmation late yesterday from the prisoners that they had ended their strike.
The Red Cross said yesterday it had visited prisoners during the hunger strike and was planning to "strengthen its team of medical doctors" to better monitor the strikers' health. "The doctors will stress the possible health consequences of the strike and urge the authorities not to subject detainees to force-feeding or any other form of duress," the Red Cross said in a statement released in Geneva.
Larsen reminded Israel of its obligations under a UN convention and "relevant international human rights instruments which provide for the protection of detainees and prisoners."
Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric quoted Secretary General Kofi Annan as saying he "hopes that the matter will be resolved soon in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law."
Human rights organizations say only about half of the 4,000 Palestinian "security prisoners" in Israeli jails have been convicted. The rest are awaiting trial on charges of hostility toward Israel or are held under special regulations allowing detainment without trial.
The death of a striking prisoner could lead to unrest in Israeli prisons nationwide.