As Israel quells prison riots, PA’s prisoner office accuses it of ‘Nazism’

Amid unrest over jailbreak by security convicts, Palestinian inmates set fire to cells; PA office urges prisoners to resist relocation

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Cells are seen at Ketziot Prison following rioting by Palestinian security prisoners, on September 8, 2021. (Courtesy)
Cells are seen at Ketziot Prison following rioting by Palestinian security prisoners, on September 8, 2021. (Courtesy)

The Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs’ Commission on Wednesday accused Israel of carrying out “Nazi” practices in its prisons, apparently referring to the crackdown on violent riots by Palestinian inmates following the escape of six security prisoners earlier this week.

The PA office called “to take immediate action to put an end to the Israeli Nazism practiced by the occupation prisons,” without elaborating, according to the official PA news agency, Wafa.

The allegation by the PA, which is regularly accused of torturing inmates, came after Palestinian security prisoners rioted in a number of Israel jails and set fire to nine cells in the Ketziot and Ramon prisons in southern Israel. Israeli forces moved to quell the unrest.

The prisoner affairs office claimed that the arson came in response to a “heinous attack” by jailers. But Israeli reports said the security forces were merely responding to the violence.

“[The jail] was stormed by special units armed with all kinds of weapons, and police dogs, and with the support of a large number of occupation soldiers who were urgently summoned from a nearby military base,” it claimed.

Reports indicate the military backup came following the riot, and not before, as the commission claimed.

A man walks by a banner depicting the six Palestinian prison escapees, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on September 8, 2021.(AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The fires were started by members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group who refused to be relocated, after the Israel Prisons Service began to move PIJ inmates between facilities following Monday’s jailbreak. Five of the escapees were members of PIJ.

The Metzada Unit, an elite force within the prisons service that deals with disturbances, headed to the prison located in Israel’s Negev desert to assist with the ongoing unrest.

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires during confrontations with Israeli security forces following a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, at the Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Nablus, on September 8, 2021. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH/AFP)

The Palestinian prisoner’s authority announced earlier on Wednesday that prisoner leaders had agreed that incarcerated Palestinians would continue to oppose new restrictions imposed on inmates following Monday’s jailbreak. It called on inmates to resist being relocated and to start fires in their cells if guards try to move them by force. The prisoners group also threatened a widespread hunger strike.

An Israeli Prisons Service official vowed to restore order in the jails.

“The security prisoners do not run the prisons around the country, we run them,” he told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Israel has launched a massive manhunt to capture the six prisoners, who are considered highly dangerous, after they broke out of the high-security Gilboa Prison early Monday in what is considered to be one of the most serious jailbreaks in the country’s history.

Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Prison officials and police are being widely castigated for lapses that facilitated the escape, with a litany of blunders allowing the breakout to occur in the first place, and a failure to grasp the severity of the situation for several hours after it occurred.

Authorities said that they had not achieved any breakthroughs in the search for the terrorists as of Tuesday evening, but Hebrew and Palestinian reports said that three suspects had been arrested on suspicion of helping the fugitives.

The six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from Gilboa prison on Monday, September 6, 2021. Clockwise from top left: Yaqoub Qadiri, Mohammad al-Arida, Mahmoud al-Arida, Iham Kamamji, Zakaria Zubeidi, and Munadil Nafiyat (Screenshot: Palestinian Prisoners’ Media Office)

The six escaped via a tunnel in their cell’s drainage system, though officials said that a security flaw meant that they did not need to excavate to create a passage out.

Times of Israel staff, AP contributed to this report.

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