Palestinian inmates refusing Israeli prison food after riot

Palestinian inmates refusing Israeli prison food after riot

Prisoners’ action follows raid on cells for phones; public security minister pledges to toughen incarceration conditions

Ofer Prison, near Betunia in the West Bank, houses Palestinian inmates. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)
Ofer Prison, near Betunia in the West Bank, houses Palestinian inmates. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

Palestinian inmates at Ofer Prison in the West Bank were refusing meals on Tuesday, a day after guards carried out a search for phones they suspected had been smuggled in by newly arrived detainees.

The raid caused unrest among the prisoners and a few needed hospital treatment after they set fire to a mattress in one of the cells, Hebrew media reports said. Two prison guards were hurt, and were also treated in a hospital.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement that prisons would “continue to act with full force to quell the riots” and that the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) would “use all means at its disposal to restore order.”

Erdan added that it was his intention to toughen prison conditions for Palestinian inmates to “the minimum required.” He announced a change in conditions at the beginning of the year.

“No threat or pressure on the part of the terrorists will divert me from my decision to act to change incarceration conditions,” the statement said.

Human rights group B’Tselem, quoting data from the IPS and the military, said that at the end of 2018, Israel was holding 5,370 Palestinians in its jails, including 298 from the Gaza Strip. A further 564 Palestinians, including 10 from the Gaza Strip, were being held for being in Israel without a permit.

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