More than 250 Palestinian Authority Arab prisoners have begun a hunger strike after Israeli security personnel and Israel Prison Service authorities broke up a suspected Hamas conspiracy in the Nafha and Eshel prisons in southern Israel.
Israel’s Masada Special Security Forces, a quick response and intervention unit specializing in suppression of prisoner uprisings, responded to the intelligence alert that the terrorist prisoners were planning an attack in the two prisons, both located in the Negev. Two wings of prisoners were immediately emptied, the prisoners were separated and they were transferred out to other facilities, including a number of senior Hamas operatives.
A search turned up mobile phones and written material that had been smuggled in, suggesting collusion among a large number of the prisoners.
Another search is expected to take place within the next week to 10 days, and likely to be expanded to other wings as well.
The move ignited a hunger strike among those who were transferred, some 200 members of Hamas and about 40 others from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine striking in solidarity with Bilal Khadir, a prisoner who’s been starving himself for the past 51 days.
Hunger striking is a favorite form of protest by Arab prisoners due to its prominence and the romantic imagery it garners in Palestinian Authority and leftist international media.
The Israeli government is sometimes bullied into making concessions to the prisoners by world governments who are manipulated by such actions.
Security prisoners often are accorded special privileges in Israeli jails, and sometimes manage to obtain items that pose a danger for others.
This past March, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced attorneys Medhat Issawi, 42, and his sister, Shireen Issawi, 37, both of eastern Jerusalem, to eight- and four-year prison terms respectively for harming state security. The two passed messages between security prisoners who were their clients, and the Hamas terror group. The clients in question were among those on a list of security prisoners from the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal.