IDF Plans to Double Capacity of Ketsiot to 2,400 Inmates

The IDF plans to expand the Ketsiot detention center, doubling its capacity due to the facility's crowded conditions.

The planned expansion would bring Ketsiot's capacity to 2,400 inmates, almost the same number of prisoners held in the detention center prior to the Oslo Accords.

Work on Ketsiot, located near Be'er Sheva, will cost over NIS 50 million and is scheduled to be completed by April.

The government is planning to increase by 360 the capacity of Shata prison in the Galilee and to build a new prison for security detainees, a plan which has run into difficulties due to budgetary constraints.

The country's military and Prison Services detention centers are brimming after more than two years of large-scale arrests in the West Bank that started following the outbreak of the intifada. An average of fifteen Palestinians are arrested daily on suspicion of terrorist charges.

In the last six months alone, close to 2,000 Palestinians have been detained. The number of inmates is rapidly approaching the levels reached in the first intifada: some 5,000 Palestinians are being held by Israel, 60 percent of them in IDF detention centers and the rest by the Prison Services.

With the rapid increase of detainees, the IDF and the Prison Services have been arguing over which body will be responsible for absorbing the hundreds of new inmates expected to be held.

In January, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Finance Ministry sided with Deputy Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, who said that responsibility for housing the new inmates should be placed on the IDF.

About 1,200 Palestinians are being held at Ketziot in a tent city prison bloc. The IDF is preparing the groundwork for another tent bloc that will house a similar number of prisoners.

The IDF presented plans for upgrading the tents to permanent structures and building a synagogue and sports facility for the soldiers guarding the facility to the head of the Prime Minister's Office, Avigdor Yitzhaki. According to the plans, the new facility was to cost NIS 250 million. However, Yitzhaki and the treasury opted for a low-budget solution.

The IDF also wishes to close the Ofer detention center near the West Bank city of Ramallah because of the crowded conditions there and to transfer its inmates to Ketsiot, however the plan was rejected due to objections raised by the Shin Bet.