Hundreds of Hamas Inmates Declare Hunger Strike After Israel Clears Prison Wings

Israel removes dozens of Palestinian prisoners from two units, citing suspected collusion and smuggling of cellphones into cells.

An undated image of Nafha prison in southern Israel.
Ilan Assayag

The Israel Prison Service evacuated wings housing Palestinian prisoners affiliated with Hamas citing signs of a possible conspiracy. More than 250 Palestinian prisoners have in response begun a hunger strike.

The Prison Service said it had emptied some units due to suspected collaboration among the inmates and that it was trying to prevent more protests by prisoners, or a broader revolt.

Palestinian officials confirmed on Thursday that dozens of prisoners were on hunger strike. A statement from the Palestinian prisoners authority said 120 inmates had been moved out of Nafha prison, and another 135 from the Eshel prison, both in southern Israel.

An inmate in Ayalon Prison.
Daniel Tchetchik

Most of the transferred inmates belong to Hamas. Another 40 are from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are hunger striking in solidarity with Bilal Kayed, a prisoner on hunger strike for 51 days.

Another three prisoners including journalist Mahmoud Nazal have begun rejecting food in protest of being held in administrative detention, and another five are protesting a reduction in visitation rights.

According to information obtained by the prison service, inmates at Nafha and Eshel prisons had smuggled in cellphones before their transfer. Searches came up with a number of phones and written material suggesting collusion among the inmates.

A number of senior Hamas operatives jailed in Israel are among those who were transferred to other prisons. The search operation is set to take between a week and 10 days, and may be expanded to other wings.