Israel strips Hamas prisoners of privileges

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s Cabinet voted to strip Hamas prisoners of extra privileges.

A special committee headed by outgoing Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann made the recommendation to strip the prisoners held in Israel of privileges not spelled out by Israeli or international law. The extra privileges include education, television, newspapers and family visits.

With Sunday’s Cabinet vote, the sanctions will go into effect in the near future, the Israel Prisons Service said.

The sanctions are an effort to pressure Hamas to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped in a cross-border attack in June 2006. Shalit has not been accorded basic rights, such as Red Cross visits and monthly letters from his family, under international captive soldier regulations.

Ha’aretz reported that the sanctions will include severely limiting family visits and strict limits on money transfers for use at the prison canteen, .

"It is true that we are the only democracy in the Middle East, but we can’t let ourselves become the only suckers and we mustn’t show weakness," Friedmann told the Cabinet.

Palestinian prisoners are considering launching a hunger strike in protest, Israel Radio reported Sunday. 

Reports Sunday said that last-minute negotiations on gaining Shalit’s freedom continue and that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s special envoy, Ofer Dekel, and Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin will be traveling to Cairo for Egyptian-mediated talks. Other reports called the talks have been frozen.

Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel told Army Radio Sunday that the likelihood of Shalit’s release is low. He said Hamas had not yet submitted a new list of 125 Palestinian prisoners, as Israel had requested. 

 

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