Israel eases grievances of hunger strikers Authorities also promise to quell Palestinian unrest

October 12, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- Faced with the most serious Palestinian unrest in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank in the past two years, the Israeli government is warning that it would "take all necessary measures" to quell the protests, and at the same time, it has moved to resolve the grievances of prisoners whose two-week hunger strike had sparked the wave of protests.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, clearly concerned that the daily clashes between the Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops would quickly undermine Israel's year-old peace talks with its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians themselves, responded to the mounting protests with a two-level strategy -- tough on violence but forthcoming on humanitarian issues.

Visiting the violence-torn Gaza Strip yesterday, Mr. Rabin ordered Israeli troops there to "do whatever is needed," according to Israel Army Radio, to restore order and prevent a resurgence of the "intifada," the Palestinian rebellion begun almost five years ago against Israeli rule.

"We will not let these disturbances continue," Mr. Rabin vowed, referring to the daily clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian youths over the past week. "The Israeli army's orders are to act with all that is possible within the law to prevent the disturbances, whether by curfews, closures or military activities."

But the government took a softer line with the nearly 5,000 "security prisoners" whose hunger strike had brought thousands of Palestinians onto the streets of towns, farming villages, refugee camps and Jerusalem itself in support of their demands for better conditions.

Winning a suspension of the strike, Police Minister Moshe Shahal promised immediate responses to such demands as better diets, improved medical care, renovation of visiting rooms, reassignment of members of a family to the same prison, correspondence courses for study and televisions, radios and fans for each cell.

Mr. Shahal said further measures to improve prison life will be studied by a joint committee of prison officials and representatives of the hunger strikers -- but on the principle that security would not be impaired.

Israeli Prison Authority officials also agreed to consider transfers of some of an estimated 100 prisoners being held in solitary confinement at Beersheba and Ramle prisons, an action that would meet a major demand of the hunger strikers.

Hanan Ashrawi, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation at the Arab-Israeli talks, said the prisoners had "suspended their strike for one week upon the Israeli promises of meeting 14 of their demands. At the end of the week, they will reassess the situation to see what their next steps should be."

Two people died in the continuing violence in Gaza yesterday.

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