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Settler hunt continues in West Bank amid wrangling over hunger strike

Five Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the course of their search for the three missing settlers. Meanwhile, imprisoned Palestinian hunger strikers are trying to make a deal
The Israeli army is raiding cities and villages in the West Bank including Hebron (AA)

Intensified Israeli operations in the occupied West Bank continued on Wednesday night with the detention of 10 more Palestinians in the Hebron area, Israeli website reported today.

Israeli soldiers have been turning Palestinian homes upside down for the past two weeks in a search for three settler youths who went missing.

More than 500 Palestinians have been swept up the current campaign of arrests, with five also killed. 

Meanwhile, a long-running Palestinian hunger strike was suspended yesterday to allow time for negotiations. Murad Jadallah of Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer told Middle East Eye on the phone from Ramallah that no formal agreement had yet been reached with the Israel Prison Service.

However, he said a deal could be reached by tomorrow, or as early as the end of Thursday, speculating that they could “improve conditions of the administrative detainees. Maybe they will release some of them.”

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is due to consider a bill on 30 June which could sanction torture of hunger strikers, allowing them to be force fed. The UN has called the plan “cruel and inhuman”.

As many as 100 Palestinian prisoners held without charge or trial had been on hunger strike since April in protest at their internment, say Addameer. Under the Israeli military law that dominates the West Bank, “administrative detainees”, as Israeli terms them, do not have the right to even know what they are suspected of doing, if anything. They are held for six-month terms, but these can be indefinitely renewed.

According to Addameer’s figures, Israel currently interns 196 Palestinians in these conditions. But this number looks set to soar with the recent arrest campaign. Ongoing Israeli arrests raids have swept-up around 500 new Palestinian prisoners.

Ma’an News agency reported yesterday that 12 of these are Palestinian lawmakers, members of the PA’s Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). This more than doubles the number of Palestinian MPs in Israeli jails, bringing the total to 23.

These PLA members are reportedly in administrative detention, including Azziz Dweik, the former speaker of the parliament. Dweik represented the Change and Reform bloc, the electoral list that swept to power in 2006’s landslide PA elections. The list is associated with Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement.

Qadura Fares of the Palestinian Authority-linked Prisoners’ Society said yesterday that all the details of a deal would be announced that same day. Yet no word has yet come.

"The hunger strike was suspended overnight," Israeli Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP, saying the sides had reached a "short-term agreement".

According to The Electronic Intifada, five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers during this Israeli campaign of collective punishment. Soldiers have gone from house to house, ransacking every room in what they claim is a search for the three missing settlers.

On social media, many Palestinians have questioned that the search is even motivated by the search for the three missing settlers  posting mobile phone photos of examples of apparent vandalism.

Addameer’s Jadallah said that the campaign was a ruse to inflict maximum punishment on the Palestinian population, and to crack down on Hamas’s political network in the West Bank: “they will continue to profit from the operation … they will use this chance to take more information” about Hamas.

The five Palestinians killed by Israeli in the current operation are: Ahmad Sabarin in Jelazone refugee camp near Ramallah; Muhammad Dudeen in Dura, south of Hebron; Ahmad Khaled in al-Ein camp; Muhammad Tarifi in Ramallah; and Mustafa Aslan in Qalandiya camp.

Aslan, 22, died yesterday from a head wound inflicted by Israeli fire Wednesday. His funeral is set for today.

The AFP said that Israel's army did not respond to requests for comment on administrative detention, but former prisons service commissioner Orit Adato claimed holding prisoners without charge was the only way to protect Israel's secret network of Palestinian informants and collaborators.

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