Palestinian prisoners riot over inmate’s death

Three prisoners and six guards treated for tear gas inhalation; three-day hunger strike called as PA official, Israeli Arab MK accuse authorities of medical negligence

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Illustrative photo of Eshel Prison. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Eshel Prison. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Palestinian prisoners rioted in Israeli jails on Tuesday morning following the death from cancer of a 64-year-old Palestinian prisoner, Maysara Abuhamdia, in Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital.

Security prisoners also began a three-day hunger strike to protest Abuhamdia’s treatment.

Prisoners banged on cell doors and hurled objects, prompting the Israel Prison Service to reinforce personnel at Ramon, Nafha and Ketziot prisons, as well as at Eshel Prison, where Abuhamdia was an inmate.

Prison guards fired tear gas to quell the disturbances, and Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said three prisoners and six guards were evacuated for medical treatment after inhaling the gas.

Abuhamdia was a Hamas operative sentenced to life by an Israeli court for attempted murder after he was convicted of recruiting a Hamas terrorist who plotted to carry out a suicide attack in a bustling Jerusalem cafe in 2002.

Weizman said Abu Hamdiyeh was treated well by specialist doctors and died in Soroka Hospital after his cancer was diagnosed in February.

She said the Prison Service had asked the parole board for the prisoner’s early release after his condition was termed terminal last week, but that the appeal was still in process at the time of his death.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe accused Israel of medical negligence and demanded an international investigation of Abuhamdia’s death.

“This is a serious, ugly crime committed against the prisoner Maysara due to medical negligence and reluctance to release him,” he said.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) also placed responsibility for Abuhamdia‘s death on Israel, claiming that while “the authorities refused to release him even after he was receiving chemotherapy treatment, in contrast, Jewish prisoners are released when they come down with the occasional cough.” 

The newly appointed head of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, MK Miri Regev (Likud), said she had spoked to Prison Service officials and learned that there would be an inquest into the death. Regev said in a statement that she would be conducting a tour of Israeli prisons in order to glean information regarding the living conditions of Palestinian inmates there.

Palestinians have rioted several times in the West Bank in recent weeks demanding the release of some 4,000 prisoners held in Israeli jails.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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