Palestinian security prisoners end hunger strike over cellphones

After weeks of tension over Prisons Service jamming devices, Hamas inmates to hand in some 300 smuggled phones, get access to public telephones

Palestinian security prisoners in Ofer Prison, north of Jerusalem

Times of Israel reports, “A hunger strike by dozens of Palestinian security prisoners belonging to the Hamas terror group has come to an end after Israeli officials reportedly agreed to install public telephones in their prison wards. “An agreement in principle has been reached between the prisoners and the management of the occupation’s prisons regarding their demands,” the Palestinian Prisoners Club said on its Facebook page on Monday.”

“According to representatives of the prisoners who spoke with Hebrew media, the hunger strike, launched by some 150 Hamas prisoners on April 8, formally concluded after Israel agreed to install public telephones in the 44 prison wards where the security prisoners are kept, and to allow prisoners to make regular, supervised calls to their families. Citing Israeli officials, Channel 12 said Monday the agreement only permitted calls to first-degree relatives, and prisoners have accepted the condition that the calls would be listened to by security officials.”

“The strike began after the Israel Prisons Service installed cellular jamming devices in the wards to prevent prisoners from using smuggled cellphones. The IPS said some 300 contraband cellphones, some carrying messages between terror cells, had been smuggled into the wards in recent months. The cellphones were being used to coordinate terror attacks, and had been implicated in at least 14 recent attempts at coordinating attacks from inside Israeli prisons, the IPS said. But the leaders of the prisoners said the phones’ primary use was to stay in touch with family.”

Palestinian prisoners stand in a cell, pending their release from Ketziot prison in southern Israel

“Israeli officials did not react to the hunger strike in its first days, likely because of its proximity to the April 9 elections. Qadri Abu Bakr, the chairman of the Prisoners Affairs Commission, was cited by Wafa last week as saying IPS officials seemed to be under political pressure to delay the talks until after election day.”

“Reports on the agreement Monday were not entirely consistent. Some Palestinian sources suggested to the Haaretz daily that Israel had agreed to remove the jamming devices in wards where cellphones were handed over to prison officials. Israeli sources told other outlets the jamming devices would not be removed, as future phone smuggling could not be ruled out, but public phones would be made available to prisoners.” (more…)

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