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Shin Bet allows Hamas prisoners from Gaza to make phone calls to their families

A group of people stage a demonstration in front of the Israel’s West Bank separation wall to show their support to the Palestinian prisoners in Bethlehem, West Bank on 22 March 2019 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]
A group of people stage a demonstration in front of the Israel’s West Bank separation wall to show their support to the Palestinian prisoners in Bethlehem, West Bank on 22 March 2019 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]

In an unusual move, the Israeli General Security Service (Shin Bet) has allowed Hamas prisoners from the Gaza Strip to make phone calls to their families.

The calls will be made through public phones installed in prisons.

According to the Shin Bet decision, 69 Hamas prisoners will be allowed to make phone calls to their relatives, 17 of whom are residents of the Gaza Strip and the rest from the West Bank.

A report by Haaretz said that this move contradicts Israel’s position that prisoners should not be released from the Gaza Strip as long as Hamas holds Israeli prisoners.

The prisoners will be allowed to make call phones and talk with up to five members of their family. They will also be able to call three times a week, provided that one call is no more than 15 minutes. Shin Bet will intercept a part of the calls.

The newspaper suggested that Netanyahu made this agreement in an effort to find a truce between Hamas and Israel. Moreover, the move comes in the wake of the installation of public phones in Ktzi’ot detention facility, where Hamas movement prisoners are detained. 30 Hamas prisoners from the West Bank signed on a pledge not to smuggle cell phones to prison, in exchange for installing public phones and allowing prisoners to use them.

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The Shin Bet held the dialogue with the captive movement to end the strike in April. Both sides agreed that the prisoners would have the right to speak three times a week for 15 minutes per call with their first-degree relatives, in calls intercepted by the Shin Bet. In the event of a breach, communications will be cut off from the prison cells, and the family visits from the Gaza Strip will be prevented. In March, Hamas prisoners started a hunger strike in response to plans to install jamming devices in their prison cells that prevent them from making phone calls with smuggled mobile phones.

As part of the agreements reached to end the hunger strike, at the initiative of the Shin Bet and with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and contrary to the position of the Prison Authority, Israel agreed to install public phones in the prison cells where jamming devices were connected.

According to the agreements, prisoners must be allowed to call five family phone numbers. They can hold three conversations a week from public phones for 15 minutes each.

Public telephones in prison have been activated after about 30 prisoners signed a pledge not to smuggle any cell phones, and after confiscating the smuggled phones. The confiscation will result in indefinite sanctions.

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