Lack of jail space curtails IDFarrests
During the last week, the IDF Central Command has sharply reduced arrests in the West Bank, limiting operations to stopping "ticking bombs," because it has run out of jail space to hold detainees, to the dismay of the Shin Bet.
Overcrowding is contributing to growing tension among Palestinian security prisoners in detention centers. In recent days only a handful of Palestinian suspects have been arrested and there were no arrests over the weekend. Defense sources told Haaretz that the reason is lack of space in detention centers at the divisional level and army prisons, while the Prison Service's jails are "flooded."
The Central Command police is causing worry in the Shin Bet, which is fearful it will miss opportunities to arrest terror activists before they act. The army says that while the Shin Bet is pressing for more arrests, it is not in any hurry to free suspects that need not be held any longer and is not helping to find a solution for the overcrowding problem.
The dispute contributes to the tension between the two organizations regarding abatements for the Palestinian population, particularly the lifting of closures and checkpoints. The general staff, worried about the radicalizing effects of pressure on the Palestinian population, wants to ease conditions, while the Shin Bet warns that lifting checkpoints will open the way for suicide bombers to reach Israel.
The IDF recently completed construction of a 100-prisoner, NIS 30 million prison facility at Ketziot, but the maintenance of the site costs another NIS 30 million a year and the treasury is not prepared to guarantee the funding and certainly not until next year.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to make a decision on the question of arrests, and until then, the army will continue to refrain from making arrests unless it is absolutely necessary.
Another issue worrying the IDF's jailers is visiting rights for the security prisoners. The army is in favor, hoping it will help ease tensions, while the Shin Bet is opposed, claiming security reasons, including the smuggling of cellular phones into the prisons. Some prisons have solved the problem with glass walls between the visitors and the prisoners, but in some of the prisons, the prisoners objected to the arrangement and the prison halted the visits.