Israel to ‘worsen’ conditions for Palestinian prisoners
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has announced plans to “worsen” conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The plans, which were the result of a committee Erdan set up seven months ago to make prison conditions harsher for those who “committed acts of terrorism”, include blocking funds to the Palestinian Authority, rationing water supplies, limiting prisoners’ access to television and reducing the number of family visits. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Erdan said that family visits had already been halted for prisoners affiliated with the Palestinian movement Hamas. “The plan also includes preventing members of the Knesset [Israel’s parliament] from visiting Palestinian detainees,” Erdan said. He added that the plan also includes ending the policy of separating Hamas prisoners from those affiliated with rival Palestinian faction Fatah, as he said that holding prisoners in cells based on organizational affiliation resulted in “strengthening their organization identity”. Erdan also said that there will be “clear limits” on the amount of water a prisoner consumes each day, including a cap on the number of times they are allowed to shower. He went on to assert that the Israeli prison service was ready to “deal with any scenario”. “We will not be deterred by threats and [hunger] strikes,” he said. “We must make conditions worse [for prisoners] to fulfil our moral duty to terror victims and their families,” he added. Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative party, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli government acts like it has a free hand to oppress Palestinians in any way they want.“The only way to force Israel to abstain from this behavior is to impose sanctions on Israel,” he said, speaking from the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. “Israel is behaving as if it is above international law and this must change.” According to Erdan, the Israeli authorities are likely to begin implementing the plan in the coming weeks, once it has been approved by the Israeli cabinet. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Commission denounced Erdan’s plans and said they were an attempt to make Palestinian prisoners’ lives more unbearable. Qadri Abubaker, the head of the Prisoners’ Commission, called for a strong national stand against these measures. Such decisions and laws “calls for everyone to rally at the official, popular, legal, media and human rights level to expose these arrogant policies against our heroes in prisons,” he told Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. According to official statistics, the number of Palestinian prisoners behind bars has reached 5,500, including 230 children and 54 women.