Palestinian Prisoners Launch Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails Over Cellphone Jamming Devices

Hamas believes Israel is interested in avoiding widespread unrest in Gaza before the election and will agree to prisoners' demands

Phones installed in Maasiyahu Prison in  in Ramle, in central Israel, December 2018.
Moti Milrod

Twenty-three Palestinian prisoners initiated a hunger strike in Israeli prisons on Wednesday in protest of cellular jamming devices in jail wards. The devices were installed by the prison service in order to prevent use of smuggled phones, but prisoners claim they emit high radiation and are detrimental to their health.

The striking prisoners, affiliated with Hamas, are refraining from food and have been transferred by Israeli authorities to solitary in Nafha Prison. According to Palestinian reports, senior Hamas prisoners have joined the strike on Thursday.

In addition to removal of cellular jamming devices, prisoners are demanding a halt to video surveillance of female prisoners during their breaks in Damon jail, allowing senior prisoners to teach younger prisoners and allowing prisoners to use public phones five days a weeks.   

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A prisoner source told Haaretz that Hamas leaders in Ramon, Nafha, Eshel, Ktziot and Rimonim prisons held a meeting on Wednesday and coordinated their next move. They are threatening to expand the strike and involve Hamas leaders in Gaza.

Israeli security officials estimate that Hamas believes Israel is interested in avoiding widespread unrest in Gaza before the election and will agree to their demands.

A source close to the prisoners told Haaretz "There is no doubt the Israeli Prison Service will surrender to Hamas, because Hamas now understands that Israel only responds to force." According to the source, the Israeli Prison Service is "managed by Hamas leaders, Mohammad Arman and Abbas Al-Sayed," both of them convicted of violent attacks against civilians in Israel.

In April, a mass hunger strike ended with an agreement to install public phones in wards.

The prisoner leading the strike is Ramadan Mashahra, a Hamas activist serving 20 life sentences for involvement in a suicide attack in Jerusalem. Fifteen of the other prisoners who joined him are from East Jerusalem.