Six inmates and three guards suffered minor injuries Monday in clashes between Palestinian prisoners and employees at three Israeli prisons. The prisoners were protesting an unannounced cell search.
The search was still continuing late Monday afternoon. Contraband found in the cells of prisoners affiliated with Islamic Jihad included weapons, cellphones, SIM cards and banned written material.
To quell the riots at the Ofer, Nafha and Gilboa prisons, guards sprayed the prisoners with tear gas. Of the nine people who were injured, three were removed for medical treatment.
At Ofer Prison, in the West Bank, inmates set fire to a cell during the unrest.
Israel Prison Service officials said they were anticipating sanctions by Palestinian prisoners in their facilities, including refusals to talk with prison administrators and threats of a hunger strike.
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A senior prison official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the search focused on inmates affiliated with Islamic Jihad, due to “inappropriate conduct by their leadership in prison.”
The official said that inmates from Islamic Jihad led the unrest, with support from prisoners affiliated with other Palestinian terrorist organizations.
The search was sparked by an intelligence tip that several Islamic Jihad prisoners had cellphones. Prison officials said some of the phones may have been smuggled in recently by Palestinians who deliberately got themselves arrested for that purpose. Guards found 20 cellphones during the searches on Monday.
Asher Vaknin was sworn as acting commissioner of the Israel Prison Service on January 1. His predecessor in the position, Ofra Klinger, was viewed by many senior figures in the agency as being too soft on Palestinians arrested for terrorist activity.
At a joint press conference with Vaknin recently, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called for imposing harsher conditions on these Palestinian prisoners, including limiting the food and water they receive and ending the separation between prisoners from rival Palestinians organizations Hamas and Fatah.