Hamas Prisoners in Israeli Jails Threatening Hunger Strike Over Phones, Sources Say

Agreement with prison officials that ended previous strike called for public phones in wings, but none were installed

Ofer Prison, near Jerusalem, April 13, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons are threatening to go on a hunger strike, after dozens of them were transferred to a wing in which cellphone jamming devices were installed, Palestinian sources told Haaretz.

On Monday, 80 prisoners were moved to such a wing at Ramon Prison, and these sources claim that Israel is not abiding by agreements reached last April, according to which public phones were to be installed. The Prison Service is planning to install these next month, but technical difficulties may cause a delay of a few months.

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Prisoners are now demanding the silencing of the disrupting devices and that some prisoners be allowed to spend the day in a wing without such devices, so that they can use their mobile phones.

In April, after a hunger strike that lasted for a few days, prisoner leaders and Prison Service representatives reached an agreement about these devices and the installation of public phones. The agreement stipulated that prisoners would be moved to wings with jamming devices but, in exchange, public phones would be installed there as well, something the Prison Service has objected to for many years. The hunger strike was preceded by tension between prisoners and guards over the installation of these jamming devices. This tension culminated in the stabbing of a warden in Ketziot Prison.

The plan calls for the public phones to be monitored, with the Prison Service listening in. Each prisoner will be allowed to make calls after coordinating this with prison authorities, with calls going to pre-authorized family members. In practice, the installation of public phones has been delayed but the Prison Service insisted that prisoners be moved to the new wing.

According to the Palestinian sources, the reason Hamas prisoners have not been moved so far is the threats they’ve made against wardens. “They were transferred, but they’re all talking about the agreement that stipulated that the jammers would not be employed yet,” said a Palestinian source from among these security prisoners. “In fact, the prison is being managed by Hamas prisoners. Every time they make threats, the prison management yields.”