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Israel toughens prison conditions for Palestinians to 'fulfill moral duty to victims'

Israel toughens prison conditions for Palestinians to 'fulfill moral duty to victims'
Israel is set to deliberately worsen the holding conditions for Palestinian prisoners with a cooking ban and restrictions on visits and water usage. "This party is coming to an end," the Israeli Public Security minister has said.

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan unveiled restrictions to be imposed on Palestinian prisoners kept in Israeli jails on Wednesday, noting that "making the terrorists' conditions worse is necessary to create deterrence and to fulfill our moral duty to terror victims and their families," as cited by The Jerusalem Post.

The new rules will see security prisoners hailing from rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, be kept together. Before now they were held in cells according to their affiliation, which, Erdan says, only cemented the bonds within the respective groups, "strengthening their organization identity."

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Under the new guidelines, security prisoners will no longer be able to cook for themselves inside the wards, with Erdan saying that this privilege gave them an unfair advantage over incarcerated criminals who have to put up with whatever food the prison serves them.

"Every so often, infuriating pictures appear of cooking in the terrorist wings. This party is coming to an end," he said.

Cooking appliances and utensils will be confiscated and the "canteen money" prisoners receive from rights organizations and relatives will be drastically reduced.

In going after Palestinian inmates, Erdan implements recommendations of a special committee he set up in June to work out ways to make jail conditions more rigid for those convicted on terrorism-related offenses.

Announcing the new rules, Erdan drew special attention to what he called "insane" water usage by security prisoners. The minister claimed that inmates intentionally let all the facets in their wards run all day "to try to fight Israel" which is suffering from fresh water shortage. According to statistics cited by Erdan, a security prisoner uses "five times or more" the amount of water an average Israeli citizen uses a day.

Showers would be removed from prisoner wings and access to them restricted. The new rules also will limit family visits and bar Israeli MPs from visiting the Palestinian detainees in prison.

The move did not sit well with Palestinian rights groups, who say the new regulations make the prisoners' lives unbearable.

Qadri Abubaker, the head of the Prisoners' Commission, called on the Palestinian public, media, officials, and rights advocates to firmly oppose the new restrictions "to expose these arrogant policies," as cited by Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Non-governmental advocacy group Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) has accused Erdan of using the crackdown on Palestinian prisoners to prop up his own image ahead of the Israel's upcoming elections on April 9.

"What Erdan has announced regarding his recommendation to take away what the prisoners have fought for is a nothing more than political bankruptcy in which the prisoners are used as an election auction between candidates of the Israeli parties," Qaddoura Faris, head of PPS, told Wafa.

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