Photo Credit: Moshe Shai / Flash 90
Inside an Israeli prison.

Palestinian Authority terrorist convicts incarcerated in Israeli prisons have lost their privileges until further notice — specifically, family visits to Hamas security prisoners from Gaza — according to a statement quoted Thursday by the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.

A Hamas prisoners’ group committee called the move a “declaration of war,” according to Ma’an. The Israel Prison Security Services declined to comment.

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Media in Israel and the Palestinian Authority are speculating the tightening of conditions may have to do with an attempt to increase pressure on the Hamas rulers of Gaza to release the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers and three living Israeli civilians being held hostage by the terrorist group.

The bodies of deceased IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul were kidnapped during Operation Protective Edge, the summer war fought in 2014 by Israel against Hamas. Three young Israelis are also still being held in the enclave since 2014 and 2015: Ethiopian-born Avera Mengistu, and Bedouin Israelis Hisham al-Sayed and Juma’a Abu Ghanima. All are known to suffer from mental health problems.

There are at least 340 Gaza-based terrorists who are currently being held in Israeli prisons, according to the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.

The father of Hadar Goldin told the Hebrew-language Ynet site that for more than two years his family has been trying to convince the Israeli government to cancel the family visits and reduce the conditions for Hamas inmates being held in Israeli prisons.

“The family believes we must shift the power balance on the issue of hostages,” said Simcha Goldin, “putting pressure on Hamas to lead the group to the realization that keeping hostages is a burden, not an asset.”

Israel has been quietly carrying out back-channel negotiations with the terrorist group for some time, according to sources quoted Monday by the Kann public television station.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.