Talks ongoing to end Palestinian hunger strike

Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Officials say Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating to end a mass hunger strike of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

It is the first time that substantive talks have been reported to be under way to defuse the hunger strike carried out by some 1,600 prisoners to demand better conditions and an end to detention without trial. Most have refused food for a month and a smaller core have gone without it for longer, including two for over 70 days.

Palestinian officials say Egyptian officials are trying to mediate between the strikers and Israel. An Israeli official confirmed talks were taking place but would not offer more detail.

All requested anonymity, because of the matter's sensitivity. Egyptian officials weren't immediately available for comment.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli envoy will submit a letter to the Palestinian president regarding the possibility of substantive peace talks, said officials from both sides Saturday. The modest exchange is the highest-level communication between the two sides in months.

Yitzhak Molcho, a representative of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will meet President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday evening in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinians' government.

Molcho will submit a written response to a note that Palestinian negotiators gave to Netanyahu last month that described their positions if talks were to resume, said a Palestinian official who spoke anonymously, citing the issue's sensitivity. An Israeli official confirmed the visit. He also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The communication by note demonstrates how thoroughly negotiations to carve out an independent Palestinian state have collapsed. Four months ago, preliminary meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials in the Jordanian capital Amman also stalled.

The last substantive talks fell apart in 2010, in large part over construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials say they cannot negotiate while Israel builds homes in territories they claim for their future state. They claim talks give the Israelis political cover to expand their presence there.

Israel says talks should resume without preconditions, and that all issues, including Jewish settlements, will be addressed.

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