Security prisoners protest decision to block cellphone signals
The Israeli Prison Service is meeting with representatives of the various Palestinian factions − excluding Fatah − to negotiate a deal, following security prisoners’ declaration on Sunday of an “aggressive” hunger strike.
The prisoners are protesting against the installation of cellphone jamming devices, as well as alleged persistent harassment. The Prison Service said the cell phones were used to direct terrorist attacks on the outside.
Majdi al-Adra, spokesperson for prisoner affairs in the Palestinian Authority, told The Media Line that more prisoners would join the strike on April 11, to be followed on the 17th − “Palestinian Prisoners Day” − by an open invitation to members of all factions to join in.
“It’s expected that about 1,500 prisoners are going to participate on Prisoners Day,” he said.
The hunger strike will not be gradual, in that striking prisoners will stop eating and drinking altogether, he told The Media Line.
“It will be gradual in terms of participants, but not the severity of the strike,” he explained.
Adra clarified that the prisoners’ demands centered on the removal of the “health-damaging” jamming devices; permission to watch television and listen to the radio; the installation of public pay phones; and the withdrawal of sanctions imposed on prisoners at the Negev and Rimon prisons.
Fuad Khufash, a Palestinian specialist on prisoner affairs, said it was in the Israel Prison Service’s interest to contain the strike.
“The Israelis are not interested in a chaotic situation inside their prisons,” he told The Media Line, saying the strike would affect security in the West Bank during this week’s Israeli elections.
“The security establishment in Israel recognizes the effects of a strike and is working to prevent it from happening,” Khufash insisted.
The latest developments came after Hamas prisoners stabbed and wounded two guards at the Ketziot Prison in southern Israel on March 24.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, studied the living conditions of Palestinian prisoners and put in place stricter conditions − including the jamming devices that prevent prisoners from using smuggled cellphones to communicate with the outside world.
Khufash said the Prison Service had offered a number of concessions, although prisoners were determined to attain all of their demands at once – before the Tuesday elections.
“I believe the talks are going toward a truce, and not an escalation,” Khufash told The Media Line.