Hamas Prisoners Dispersed Through Israeli Security Wings After Burning Cells

Prison officials fear clashes following move against Palestinian security prisoners who set mattresses ablaze, protesting block of cellphone service

File photo: Ramon Prison in southern Israel, January 15, 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israel Prison Service started the transfer of over 100 Hamas prisoners to various security wings in Israeli jails on Tuesday, a day after Palestinian prisoners burned mattresses in Ramon Prison to protest the installation of devices that block cellphone service in the prison.

Imprisoned Hamas leaders were also separated from other prisoners in Ramon Prison, located in southern Israel.

Acting IPS Commissioner Asher Vaknin instructed to move prisoners serving sentences for security-related offenses from the Ktzi'ot and Megiddo prisons to security wings designated for Hamas prisoners in other Israeli prisons.

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The Hamas prisoners' administration warned that the dispersal of prisoners would heighten tensions in the prisons. The prison service is preparing for clashes that it fears might erupt between the inmates and the prison guards in light of Vaknin's decision. 

Qadura Fares, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Haaretz that "prisoners said they had been transferred to empty cells. The Israel Prison Service's decision will spark serious escalation. I know the prisoners are planning to launch a hunger strike soon."

The IPS imposed punishments and fines on prisoners who set 14 cells on fire in Ramon Prison. The wing that was set ablaze contains 20 cells, housing 88 inmates.

According to a prison official, one of the prisoners who planned the arson is senior Hamas member Abbas Sayed, who is serving 35 life sentences for masterminding the Park Hotel bombing, which killed 29 people as they celebrated the Passover seder in Netanya in 2002.

Hamas announced that Hamas leaders Mohammed Arman and Muad Bilal had been transferred from Ramon Prison.

Over the past few weeks, the IPS has launched a pilot project to install devices that disrupt cellular signal to prevent prisoners from using cellphones to communicate with hostile elements outside the prison. The pilot is scheduled to last several months, and is expected to be implemented in all the wings housing security prisoners.