Ramallah: Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails belonging to the Fatah movement have urged it and the Palestinian leadership to make their freedom a precondition for the resumption of peace talks with the Israelis.
The prisoners urged their families and the Fatah cadre to fix a permanent and central tent in the empty area facing the Palestinian presidential headquarter (Muqata’a) to highlight the cause and suffering of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
According to an official letter signed by the prisoners’ leadership released to the prisoners’ families during their Tuesday visit, the prisoners said that their freedom should be a precondition for the peace talks not a consequence of it. “It is time for the Palestinian leadership to activate the issue of the Palestinian prisoners and put it on top of the agenda. Enough is enough with the Israeli prisons and jailers,” read the letter.
Israel holds around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, of whom a total of 2,200 belong to Fatah.
Fatah prisoners said that their freedom should be achieved before any restart of the peace talks. “The Palestinian leadership should ensure that Israeli jails are empty before the peace negotiations are launched,” read the letter.
A senior Fatah official told Gulf News that the issue of prisoners has been on the agenda of the political leadership which insists on their release as an agreed upon issue with the Israelis. The official said that the Israeli government under Ehud Olmert had promised the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the release of hundreds of prisoners along with all the prisoners arrested before the Oslo Accords were signed between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel.
The official said that the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails should not concern themselves with reminding the Palestinian leadership of their cause. “The cause of the prisoners to be treated as prisoners of war and winning their freedom is a top priority,” said the official.
The official added that the Palestinian leadership is currently in the final stage of drawing up a plan to lodge a complaint with the UN against Israel, accusing it of committing war crimes against the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The official stressed that the Palestinian leadership will also use the issue of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners to address the entire issue of prisoners behind Israeli bars.
Speaking to Gulf News, Eisa Qaraqei, the Palestinian Minister of Detainees’ Affairs, said that the Palestinian leadership will shortly approach the UN Security Council to force Israel to attend to the prisoners’ human rights as per international humanitarian law and release them at the earliest.