Readers may recall that in April and May 2017 BBC audiences saw very generous coverage of a hunger strike by mainly Fatah-linked Palestinian prisoners serving time in Israeli prisons.
A similar story – this time involving convicted terrorists affiliated with Hamas – has been brewing in recent weeks and on April 8th a hunger strike was launched.
“Some 150 Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel’s Rimon and Ketziot prisons launched a hunger strike on Monday after talks to avert a strike collapsed, according to the Palestinian Authority official Wafa news outlet. […]
Additional groups of prisoners in other prisons would join the strike “in the coming days,” Wafa said.
The strike comes to protest the recent installation of cellphone jamming devices in the prison wards to stop prisoners from making calls on smuggled phones. Israel has also refused to allow family visits from Hamas-ruled Gaza.”
As the Times of Israel reported:
“The strikers are led by a few of the most notorious terrorists Israel has ever put behind bars, according to a Channel 13 news report. They include Arman Mahamed, who is serving 36 life sentences for the Cafe Moment suicide bombing in central Jerusalem on March 9, 2002, which killed 11 and wounded 54; Hassan Salame, who is serving 84 life sentences for the bus 18 bombings in Jerusalem in 1996; and Muammar Abu Sheikh, who is serving 29 life sentences for his role in the bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya on Passover Eve, March 27, 2002, which killed 30 and left 140 wounded.”
The weeks before the hunger strike was announced saw several violent incidents.
“A Hamas prisoner pulled out an improvised dagger during a routine search at the Ketziot prison in southern Israel on Monday.
The prisoner was quickly overpowered by officers and there were no injuries in the incident, the Israel Prisons Service said in a statement. […]
On Sunday evening, Hamas prisoners stabbed two guards at the Ketziot prison, injuring one of them seriously. The attack sparked a riot in which 11 inmates were also reported hurt.
The badly wounded guard sustained stab wounds to the neck, while the second was lightly hurt with a hand injury. […]
The incident came a week after Hamas prisoners in the Ramon prison torched 14 beds, setting a fire in the wing. The blaze was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. In that incident too, prisoners were protesting restrictions on cellphone usage.”
The background to those restrictions on cell phone usage is as follows:
“A Prisons Service official said over the weekend that 14 separate incidents of illicit phone calls meant to instigate terror attacks were identified in recent months.”
As the Jerusalem Post reported, the Hamas leadership has also tied the issue to the level of violence along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
“The crisis broke out after the installation of cellular shielding in some prisons, which interferes with cellular reception within the prison walls and is intended to prevent security prisoners from using mobile phones.
A few days ago, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh held a press conference in which he presented the list of the demands of the terrorist organization from Israel in the negotiations for the Gaza Strip. “We have placed the issue of Palestinian prisoners at the top of our list of demands and priorities. The Egyptian delegation conveys three requests we made related to the prisoners: first, the removal of cellular shields in the prisons. Second, the abolition of the sanctions imposed on the prisoners in order to guarantee them a dignified life and, in addition, the return of visitors for the prisoners,” he said.
According to a source involved in the negotiations, Haniyeh told Nickolay Mladenov, the Bulgarian UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian prisoners may lead to an escalation.”
Remarkably, Hamas’ threats to escalate the violence if Israel does not stop jamming cell phones which have been used in connection with terror attacks has to date received no BBC coverage whatsoever.