Some 1,000 Hamas prisoners warn they’ll launch hunger strike over conditions

Prisoner representatives have raged against transfers of inmates and other limitations; Minister Ben Gvir’s visit to Ofer Prison also seen as provocative

Illustrative: A police officer keeps watch from an observation tower at the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021. (Jalaa Marey / AFP)
Illustrative: A police officer keeps watch from an observation tower at the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021. (Jalaa Marey / AFP)

Some 1,000 Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails threatened Thursday to launch a mass hunger strike, amid rising tensions between prisoners and the Israel Prison Service.

Prisoner representatives have raged against the transfers of various prisoners and other limitations on their living conditions. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit Wednesday to Ofer Prison near Jerusalem was also seen as provocative in the eyes of the prisoners.

Since entering office, Ben Gvir has repeatedly pressured the IPS to clamp down on Palestinian prisoners, limiting their freedoms and “stopping the summer camp,” as he said Wednesday.

Palestinian media said Thursday that Hamas had conducted several test launches of long-range rockets toward the sea in the Gaza Strip, saying this was a message to Jerusalem over prisoners’ conditions. The terror group regularly conducts such tests.

Hamas spokesman Abdel-Latif al-Qanou said Thursday that the group was “carefully following the situation” while blaming the “extremist settler government for the consequences and results of the aggression against the prisoners.”

He warned that “their battle will not take place [only] inside the prisons, as our people are with them and behind them.”

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 said he will propose legislation to allow for the death penalty for certain terror offenses.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference at the Knesset, on July 5, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier this year he sought to crack down on shower times and instructed the removal of ovens used to bake pitas. The latter earned him the derisive nickname of “the pita minister” by members of the opposition, who contended he was focusing on public relations rather than substantive policies.

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