Israeli Committee Approves Bill Denying Visits to Hamas Prisoners

Hamas refuses to allow reciprocal visits by humanitarian organizations to the Israelis being held in Gaza

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Freed Palestinian prisoner Palestinian Yahya Sinwar, a founder of Hamas' military wing, left, greets Hamas militants in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011.
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill on Sunday that would block Hamas prisoners from receiving visits from Red Cross representatives or family members. The terror group refuses to allow reciprocal visits by humanitarian organizations to the Israelis being held in Gaza.

The bill was sponsored by MK Oren Hazan (Likud), but such a bill had been submitted in the past by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. “The bill would enable me to continue to prevent family visits to Hamas terrorists in our prisons so long as this terror group holds our soldiers’ bodies and our civilians and doesn’t allow anyone see them, and would raise my policy to the level of legislation,” Erdan said at the time.

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The law would apply to security prisoners identified with any terror organization that holds Israeli prisoners and doesn’t permit them visits. “Because Israel is an advanced democracy committed to human rights conventions to which the terrorist organizations are not committed, an intolerable situation results. The terrorist organizations, as a strategy, kidnap and hold Israeli citizens without regard for their conditions and without allowing them visits, which seriously harms the morale and the national strength of the State of Israel,” the bill’s explanatory notes say.

Hazan responded to the ministerial panel’s approval by saying, “On the day I found myself attempting to stop visits to terrorists with my body, boarding buses and confronting the families of scum from Gaza, I understood it was my duty to stop these damned visits,” he said. “The distorted reality in which, on one hand, our beloved and precious brethren are held captive by Hamas and we have no information about them or know what happens to them, while on the other hand Hamas murderers are vacationing in Israeli prisons, waking up every morning with a smile, celebrating and exploiting our democracy and enjoying five-star hotels and other outrageous benefits, must be stopped.”

At the beginning of the month, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar addressed the issue of the prisoner exchanges in an interview with an Italian newspaper that also ran in Yedioth Ahronoth. “The prisoners’ issue is critical; it is a moral issue for me. Readers may think that the prisoners are terrorists, but in Gaza we all get arrested at some point. It’s a stage of growing up, like a bar mitzvah,” he said.

In May, Erdan instructed Prison Service Commissioner Ofra Klinger to prevent Hamas prisoners from watching World Cup games. The decision was made together with the coordinator of POWs and MIAs, Yaron Blum, to put pressure on Hamas to return the Israeli prisoners.