Islamic Jihad Inmates, Israel Holding Talks on Prison Conditions, Palestinian Reports Say

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Mahmoud Ardeh at court in Nazareth, last week.
Mahmoud Ardeh at court in Nazareth, last week.Credit: Rami Shllush

Palestinian inmates linked to Islamic Jihad will be returned to the cells where they were kept before being dispersed among the country's prisons this month, Palestinian media reported Friday.

The inmates were dispersed after six prisoners escaped from Gilboa Prison in the north on September 6. Four of them were captured last week, while two are still at large.

According to some reports, the prisoners will be returned to their original cells after the holiday of Sukkot. One report said that the inmates and the prison authority agreed that all Islamic Jihad prisoners will be placed in cells reserved for their movement only.

The Israel Prison Service denies the reports, but a Palestinian source close to the Palestinian prisoners confirmed that the inmates are negotiating their incarceration conditions with the prison authority. The sources added that Hamas prisoners are mediating between Islamic Jihad prisoners and the prison service.

The reports come against the backdrop that Islamic Jihad prisoners intend to start riots, including burning cells and harming prison staff members if their demands are not met.

The lawyer of Mahmoud Aradeh, who planned the escape from Gilboa Prison, said that his client told him that he decided to flee because there was no hope of an early release and no chance of parole.

Aradeh said that the six prisoners arrived in the village of Na'ura, where they briefly stayed in a mosque. They showered there before departing for the West Bank, but got lost and were afraid to continue once they heard about the extensive manhunt for them. They survived by picking fruits and feeding on plants they found in a field.

Aradeh told his lawyer that he had dug the tunnel through which the prisoners escaped from Gilboa by himself, using a screw and an iron rod that he had dismantled from a closet.

He said that the other inmates joined him in the dig after he removed the cover of the sewer. They used metal tools and ropes leftover in the prison area from construction work.

Another hearing on extending the detention of the four prisoner who were recaptured is expected to take place next week. They will attend it via video conference.

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