Hamas operatives who are imprisoned in Israel have announced that they will go on a 24-hour hunger strike starting Monday, in protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's intention to revoke some of their privileges.
Israel has placed at least seven senior Hamas operatives in solitary confinement and the strike comes in response to this, Ynet has learned.
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Israel's Prison Service refused to confirm or deny the report, however sources confirmed that the security establishment has decided to place the prisoners in solitary confinement to deny them visits.
Prisoners' families protest in Gaza
The government's plan aims to prevent contact between the various Hamas inmates who will be scattered in separate wings or different facilities. They will not be allowed to share prison cells or stay in adjacent cells. Some of the prisoners will also be put in solitary confinement.
Prisoners will also suffer a reduction in the amount of meat they eat and will receive meat dishes only once or twice a week. They are currently allowed to collectively buy meat, chicken and vegetables together on top of their prison meals. This practice will now be banned. The Palestinian prisoners' access to their special canteen will also be limited.
Meanwhile, Hamas slammed Netanyahu for announcing that Israel has accepted the German mediator's proposal for a prisoner exchange that aims to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The organization claimed that Netanyahu is "lying" and that "his only goal is to cover up his failure."
Riyadh al-Ashqar, the information director for Hamas' Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs, said that "the detainees decided to protest against the prison's management, especially because many of the movement's leaders have been transferred to separate and isolated cells."
The ministry urged Shalit's captors not to back down from their demands.
After the prime minister announced that the Palestinian detainees' higher education privileges are to be revoked, Ynet has learned of additional measures that the government plans to take in order to pressure Hamas to release Shalit – including reducing the frequency of family visits and telephone calls.
It should be noted that while prisoners will not be able to start studying for a higher degree, those who have already began a program will be allowed to finish it.
The prime minister said during the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on Thursday that Israel has no obligation beyond the Israeli law, international law and international treaties.
'Plan will gain support for Hamas'
Hamas slammed Israel for announcing the plan to downgrade prisoners' privileges, and representatives for various Palestinian factions stressed that the measure will only encourage Hamas to stand firmly on their demands in the prisoner swap deal.
Fatah elements estimated that the Israeli plan will only bolster Hamas; they explained that the media confrontation between Israel and Hamas will improve the latter's popularity among the Palestinian public.
Ashraf al-Ajrami, the former Palestinian prisoners' affairs minister, inveighed against the Israeli plan as well.
"Netanyahu is making a grave mistake," he said in a conversation with Ynet. "If he thinks that it will pressure Hamas or the prisoners' families, he probably doesn't understand the mood on the Palestinian side."
According to Arjami, toughening the prisoners' conditions is welcomed by the detainees and their families, who are urging Hamas not to surrender to Israel, and not to compromise on the Shalit deal.
"Any Israeli pressure can trigger disorder in prison," Arjami claimed. "If they feel deprived they will rebel, which will influence that Palestinian public's opinion, and will cause Hamas to toughen its stance."
Arjami also claimed that such pressure might encourage some Palestinian movements to respond violently. "There are organizations that will want to use the opportunity to gain support from Hamas followers, and will try to kidnap other Israeli soldiers."
The al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committee's military wing, announced that they intend to abduct Israeli soldiers who will serve as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
"The abduction of Israeli soldiers is a foremost possibility in the current and future situation – as long as there are Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails," the announcement read.
The Popular Resistance Committee is one of the organizations that took part in Shalit's kidnapping.
Elior Levy is Ynet's Palestinian affairs correspondent
Attila Somfalvi and Eli Senyor contributed to this report
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