Israel Halts Family Visits for Hamas Prisoners From Gaza

Hamas calls decision 'a declaration of war' on its prisoners and a capitulation to the families of Israelis captured and missing in the Strip

File photo: Women sit in front of photographs of jailed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Gaza city, May 4, 2017.
File photo: Women sit in front of photographs of jailed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Gaza city, May 4, 2017. Adel Hana/AP

Israel has decided to stop family visits for Hamas prisoners from the Gaza Strip. Prison Service officials confirmed that the decision will go into effect on Friday. The Hamas prisoners’ administration labeled the decision “a declaration of war” on its prisoners.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Rahman Shadid said in a statement that “The aim of this decision is to exert pressure on the Hamas leadership regarding the missing and captives in Gaza and is a surrender to the pressure of the soldiers’ families, who called for the prisoners to be punished.” He also said that this is just the first in a series of punitive measures that Israel plans to take against the Hamas prisoners in the near future.

“It is the correct decision," said the family of Oron Shaul, whose body is being held in Gaza. "We hope that it will serve to help bring back Oron from Hamas captivity as soon as possible.”

This week, Kan, the country's new public broadcaster, reported that there has been contact in the last few weeks between Israel and Hamas through a mediator, with discussion concerning a possible prisoner swap. The report linked this development to a visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt. Hamas denied the report and said that any negotiations would depend upon Israel’s readiness to release prisoners who were freed in the Shalit deal and then rearrested in the summer of 2014.