Israel Prison Service Says More Palestinians Injured in Riot Than First Reported

Prison Service says 17 injured, while declining to say whether any inmates were shot during raid and ensuing clashes

Prison Service special forces at Ofer Prison, January 21, 2019.
Israel Prison Service

Seventeen Palestinian prisoners were injured and evacuated to the hospital in the raid and riots at Ofer Prison last Monday, nearly triple the six originally reported by the Israel Prison Service last week. Six guards were also injured and had to be evacuated to the hospital, and not three as previously reported.

Palestinian groups claimed that about 140 prisoners were injured in the incidents, mostly from tear gas inhalation, but the the Prison Service refused to provide details about additional prisoners who received medical treatment. The Prison Service also declined to comment on a question from Haaretz as to whether any of the prisoners had been shot during the raid, in which units were armed with riot dispersal equipment, guns and attack dogs.

On Sunday, the Prison Service confirmed these numbers, saying the original numbers referred to those evacuated to the hospital on the day of the incident, while the rest were taken for medical tests later in the week.

Last week, special units of the Prison Service, along with the police, raided the cells of Palestinian security prisoners in search of cellphones and other contraband, which they suspected had been smuggled into the prison. The prisoners rioted during the raid, setting mattresses on fire in response to the surprise search.

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The Prison Service retrieved five cellphones during the search, all of which were in the possession of members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

After the incident last week, the Prisons Service said that during the search and riot, three guards and six prisoners suffered light injuries, and “they were examined on the site and did not require hospitalization.” They reiterated this number on Wednesday. But on Sunday, the Prison Service updated their report.

“On the day of the incident, six prisoners and three guards were evacuated to the hospital for examinations. Later in the week, more prisoners who complained of injuries as well as more guards were taken to the hospital. In total, 17 prisoners and six guards were evacuated for tests in the hospital and did not require hospitalization,” The Prison Service said.

Prison Service special forces at Ofer Prison, January 21, 2019.
Israel Prison Service

Palestinian groups claimed that about 140 prisoners were injured in the incidents, mostly from tear gas inhalation. The Prison Service refused to provide details about additional prisoners who received medical treatment inside the prison. 

On Friday, Haaretz reported, based on information received on Tuesday from Palestinian sources, that 20 out of 140 injured prisoners were taken to the hospital for treatment and returned to the prison on the same day.

On Wednesday, Haaretz received further information from a number of Palestinian sources, including the Palestinian Authority for Prisoner and Former Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoners Club and the Addameer nonprofit organization for prisoner rights. The information was relayed through lawyers who had met with clients of theirs from the prison. “What was reported in the press does not reflect one percent of what happened,” a prisoner told a lawyer from the Prisoners Club.

The Prison Service also said on Sunday: “A preliminary investigation shows that the week before the incident in Ofer Prison, a [Palestinian] security prisoner attacked a Prison Service warden while he was conducting a routine check in the wing. The prisoners in the cell where the warden was attacked were checked and two cellular phones were found on the person of one of the prisoners. Last week, another search was conducted and five more cellphones were found, which were concealed by prisoners in the prison wing. At the same time, disciplinary violations and forbidden protest actions were carried out by 10 prisoners, who were punished.”

“In an additional search conducted, violent resistance was encountered from security prisoners in the prison, which included throwing objects, spilling oil to interfere with the guards actions and the use additional force that required Prison Service guards to enter the wings and cells and take control of the rioting prisoners,” said the Prison Service.

The Prison Service said it was forced to take action – and used only “essential measures” – in the face of the violent resistance of the prisoners. “As in every disciplinary incident, the Prison Service conducts a process of investigation, data gathering and inquiry concerning the events in the Ofer Prison. At the end of the process, we will be able to present a fuller picture and precise data.”