Ben Gvir moves to ‘overcrowd prison living conditions’ in response to Gaza war

National security minister says removing beds for jailed terrorists will enable prisons to absorb new inmates, including Hamas terrorists captured by Israel after invading

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

National Security Itamar Ben Gvir during visit to southern Tel Aviv, September 3, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
National Security Itamar Ben Gvir during visit to southern Tel Aviv, September 3, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced on Thursday new restrictions for security prisoners, in a move intended to worsen their living conditions amid Israel’s ongoing war with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Approved by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, the restrictions will “make prisoners’ living spaces more crowded,” according to a statement from Ben Gvir’s office.

In addition, the far-right minister announced that jailed terrorists will be given mattresses in their sleeping quarters, instead of beds, which he said will enable prisons to absorb new inmates from among the many terrorists captured by Israel after they infiltrated from Gaza on Saturday to carry out a devastating massacre.

In charge of the police and prison system, the national security minister has come under fire — alongside most members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet — for doing little to assuage the nation in Saturday’s shocking terror attack and its immediate aftermath, in which Hamas slaughtered and killed at least 1,300 civilians and soldiers, and wounded more than 3,000.

On Wednesday, Ben Gvir said the National Security Ministry had given instructions to purchase 10,000 assault rifles for distribution to civilian security teams.

Some 4,000 of the rifles have already been purchased from an Israeli manufacturer, his office said, and will be distributed immediately.

A dead body after the devastating assault by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 11, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Helmets and bulletproof vests were also acquired, and ready for immediate distribution alongside the rifles, with a particular emphasis on towns close to Israel’s borders, as well as mixed Jewish-Arab cities and West Bank settlements.

Civilian security teams form the first line of defense for many smaller towns and settlements, and their ranks were particularly hard hit during Saturday’s attacks, during which at least 1,500 Hamas terrorists surprised and decimated communities in Israel’s south, as well as an army base and a police station, and massacred partygoers at a music festival.

Ben Gvir, whose mandate is security within Israel’s borders, rose to his position by campaigning on a law and order platform, promising to return personal safety to Israelis amid a lingering wave of small terror attacks.

Although he has pressed to increase police officer recruitment and retention, few of his other initiatives are respected as serious measures to improve Israel’s internal security. In particular, the minister has been derided for his several moves to embitter the lives of already-incarcerated security prisoners, including ending the practice of fresh pita baking within prisons, and limiting prisoners’ shower time.

The minister has also secured NIS 9 billion in funding to create a much-touted National Guard force, although plans for the move remain in limbo.

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