Palestinian terror convicts in an Israeli prison are reportedly refusing to move to a new ward where cellular jamming devices were installed to prevent them from using smuggled cellphones, despite understandings reached last month with the Israel Prisons Service (IPS).
Last month, a hunger strike by dozens of security prisoners belonging to the Hamas terror group came to an end after Israeli officials agreed to install public telephones in their prison wards.
The IPS said some 300 contraband cellphones, some carrying messages between terror cells, had been smuggled into the wards in the preceding months. The phones had been implicated in at least 14 recent attempts to coordinate terror attacks from inside Israeli prisons, the IPS said.
Representatives of the prisoners said at the time that the week-long hunger strike by some 150 Hamas prisoners had 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. Every prisoner will reportedly be allowed to speak with a first-degree family member up to three times a week for 15-20 minutes.
But Hamas inmates at Ramon Prison are now refusing to move to a ward where jamming devices have been installed and threatening to set its cells on fire if they are forcibly moved there, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday, quoting unnamed sources among the prisoners.
In March, ten cells in the ward were torched within hours of Hamas prisoners being moved there.
According to the report, the threat was issued by the leader of Hamas prisoners in that jail, Muhammad Amran, who is serving 36 life sentences for his part in carrying out a 2002 suicide bombing at Cafe Moment in Jerusalem, where 11 Israeli civilians were killed and 54 were wounded.
There were said to be delays in installing the public phones in the ward. That is due to disagreements between the IPS and the Shin Bet security service regarding the division of responsibilities between the bodies, according to the Maariv daily. Additionally, legal questions have been raised regarding the supervision of the prisoners’ phone calls, as well as technological difficulties.
However, Hamas inmates have reportedly said that in any case they won’t agree to move to the ward with the cellular jamming devices, which is currently empty.
The installation of those devices in other prisons is likely to be postponed, the Haaretz report said.
“In practice, the one managing the IPS is Muhammad Arman and not the Israel Prisons Service commander,” a prisoner was quoted as saying. “Nobody is in charge except Hamas chiefs — they determine the rules and do whatever they want. Apparently whoever makes threats gets what they want.”
The IPS rejected that notion, responding that “the ward will be populated based on operational preparedness and the schedule determined by the IPS, and not any other consideration. The jamming devices and phones project will be managed professionally and as determined by the IPS.”
The row over incarceration conditions recently sparked violence, including riots at Ketziot Prison that, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, left 120 prisoners hurt in altercations throughout February and March.
Twice in March, Hamas prisoners violently attacked guards at Ketziot Prison, with one guard sustaining serious injuries from a stab wound to his neck. In another attack, inmates used shanks to stab guards while the prisoners were being moved between cells, sparking a riot in the prison.
In late February, Hamas prisoners in Ramon Prison torched 14 beds, setting a fire in the wing. The blaze was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. In that incident, too, prisoners were protesting restrictions on cellphone usage.