Israel’s prison services enacted several new measures Wednesday aimed at withdrawing privileges for Hamas prisoners in a bid to increase pressure on the terror group to release three kidnapped Israeli teenagers.
As a result, affected prisoners will not be able to watch World Cup matches, purchase food from the canteen or receive newspapers, according to Israeli news portal Walla. The prison service also planned to reduce the length of visitations and, in some cases, cancel family visits.
Israel’s cabinet on Tuesday authorized Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to worsen conditions for Hamas prisoners as part of a series of ongoing measures targeting the terror group, which Israel blames for the abduction of the three teenagers Thursday night in the West Bank.
An Israel Prison Service spokesperson said the measure would apply to approximately a thousand prisoners.
Authorities are targeting any perks that they are not required to provide prisoners under international law, a senior IPS official said according to Walla, adding that a final list of measures would have to be approved by Aharonovitch before going into effect.
“In recent years, I’ve significantly toughened conditions for Hamas prisoners,” Aharonovitch said after the cabinet decision. “Following the kidnapping, the cabinet decided to authorize me to take further action. I have instructed, and some of the instructions have already taken effect and others will go into effect over the next coming days, and they are tough measures.”
Meanwhile, Israeli news source Ynet reported that the mood among Palestinian prisoners is generally positive, as many of the security prisoners see a prisoner exchange similar to the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal as their best chance of being released. Israel released 1,027 security prisoners to secure the freedom of IDF soldier Shalit, who was grabbed inside Israel in 2006 in a Hamas raid in which two other soldiers were killed, and held hostage in Gaza.
However, a Palestinian official who deals with prisoners cautioned against being overly optimistic, as Israel would probably be less inclined to go through with such an exchange in this circumstance, noting that the Shalit deal took five years to come to fruition, and even at the end there was significant opposition.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has already said publicly that his Yisrael Beytenu party will oppose any future prisoner exchanges.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.