Ben Gvir visits renovated jail to ensure Palestinians’ conditions unimproved

Hamas lashes minister’s ‘criminal behavior’ after he tours the high-security Nafha Prison following renovations

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (center) listens to Israel Prison Service chief Katy Perry (left) during a visit to Nafha Prison, January 6, 2023. (Israel Prison Service)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (center) listens to Israel Prison Service chief Katy Perry (left) during a visit to Nafha Prison, January 6, 2023. (Israel Prison Service)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the recently renovated high-security Nafha Prison Thursday to review holding conditions for Palestinian prisoners jailed for security offenses, his office said Friday.

The prison now features new wings with added security measures to prevent escape attempts, while also being built according to a High Court ruling from 2017 that stipulated that each prisoner must have at least four square meters (43 square feet) of living space in their cell.

“I came to Nafha Prison yesterday to ensure that the murderers of Jews are not getting better conditions as a result of the construction of new cells, and I was glad to see that the Israel Prison Service does not intend to improve their holding conditions,” the far-right politician now in charge of police and the prison service said in a statement.

Among his hardline political positions, Ben Gvir has often spoken out against providing Palestinians convicted of terror-related offenses with comfortable conditions. He has also spoken in favor of introducing the death sentence to convicted terrorists.

“I will continue to handle the holding conditions of security prisoners so that they do not get any added benefits,” the minister said.

The Hamas terror group expressed outrage at the visit, with spokesman Abdel-Latif Al-Qanoua calling it “a dangerous escalation” and saying it was intended “to oppress the prisoners and to tighten their suffocating conditions. It’s unprecedented criminal behavior toward them.”

He warned that “we cannot be silent” in the face of such actions.

Hamas rebuked Ben Gvir earlier in the week for his 15-minute long visit to Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount, a visit that drew a flood of international condemnations.

Ben Gvir toured the compound Tuesday morning, decrying the alleged “racism” against Jews at the site and scorning warnings of a significant backlash. The visit stoked concerns in the Muslim world that Israel’s government would move to change the status quo prohibiting Jewish prayer at the shrine — considered the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest to Muslims, who refer to it as the Al Aqsa Mosque or the Noble Sanctuary — despite repeated vows that the regulations will remain in place.

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