Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced Wednesday a series of new restrictions on Palestinian security prisoners as part of ongoing efforts to pressure the terror groups to which they belong.
At a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Erdan said the first change would be to remove the prisoners’ right to be housed with members of their respective factions.
“I have decided that the Prisons Service will stop holding the prisoners in wings based on their organizational affiliation,” he said. The right granted to prisoners to police their own groups had the unwanted result of “strengthening their organization identity,” he said, adding that it ensured that they return to terrorism after leaving the prisons.
He said dramatic new limits would be imposed on the “autonomy” enjoyed by these prisoners. Besides removing the separate housing for different Palestinian terror groups, prisoners would face new limits on cooking for themselves in their prison wing, and on water usage.
He said the security prisoners “provided for themselves food that’s in some ways better than the food given to criminal prisoners — those we hope and believe we will be able to rehabilitate and return to Israeli society, unlike the terrorists. The cooking will be stopped and moved to the Prisons Service kitchens. The food [served to security prisoners] will be equal to that provided to criminal prisoners.”
He also said a committee investigating security prisoners’ living conditions discovered “insane” levels of water usage “in inconceivable magnitudes.”
Prisoners used “five times or more” the amount of water of the average Israeli each day, Erdan said.
“And that’s no accident,” he added, charging that the prisoners viewed wasting water as “another way to try to fight Israel.”
“This has to stop and to change,” he said. “Terrorists in prison enjoy free access to the faucets and leave them running several hours a day. There will be clear limits on the amount of water a prisoner may consume each day, the times in which they can shower will be limited and eventually the showers will be moved out of the wings. Then we’ll be able to have better oversight and limit their use.”
The Hamas terror party, to which many of the security prisoners belong, is holding two Israeli civilians, both believed to be mentally ill — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively. And it is holding the bodies of two soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in fighting in Gaza during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
Hamas is holding the Israelis, and occasionally attempts to kidnap additional Israeli soldiers and civilians, to use as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons on terrorism charges.
Israeli families of terror victims and of the fallen soldiers have repeatedly demanded that the government crack down on the living conditions of Palestinian prisoners as a means of pressuring Hamas to release their loved ones and the bodies.
Last month, Israeli lawmakers passed a law removing the possibility of parole for good behavior for those convicted or murder or attempted murder in terror attacks. The law removes the Prisons Service’s right to release such inmates after two-thirds of their sentence has been served.