A hunger strike started by some 23 Palestinian prisoners on September 11 over cellphone-jamming devices installed in the Ramon Prison in southern Israel has grown into a massive, 140-person demonstration inside the walls of several prisons across the country.
The protest began last week with nearly two dozen Hamas security prisoners refusing to eat or drink until the Israel Prison Service (IPS) agreed to remove the jamming devices that prisoners say are emitting high amounts of radiation and have caused cancer concerns, according to the Palestine News Agency. Israeli prisons installed the signal-jamming equipment in order to prevent the use of smuggled cellphones.
Over a week later, both the number of protesters and their demands have increased, with hunger strikers in multiple Israeli prisons standing together in solidarity to demand not only the removal of the devices, but also an increase in public phone usage days, allowance for prisoners to educate imprisoned minors and additional, facility-specific grievances.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last month that under current rules, which have been in place since August, Hamas inmates imprisoned in the Ramon and Ktzi'ot facilities are only allowed to use public phones to contact five pre-approved relatives via three calls lasting a total of 15 minutes over a week-long period.
Hamas leaders currently jailed in Ramon, Nafha, Eshel, Ktzi'ot and Rimonim Prisons conversed on Wednesday to plan a potential expansion of the strike and involve fellow Hamas leaders in Gaza, reported Haaretz. It’s unclear how they communicated with each other.
The day prior, Hamas announced they "will not leave the Palestinian detainees alone in their fight for their legitimate demands,” according to The Jerusalem Post. "We call for a mass popular and factional action to raise the issue of the Palestinian detainees and support them in the face of Israeli violence and terrorism against them.”
It appears the hunger strike will escalate before there is any sort of compromise made on either side.
"We will not be intimidated by the strike," the IPS said in a statement obtained by Haaretz. The Israeli agency also claimed that the strike was nothing more than “the result of incitement from a few individual prisoners with no direction or organization," and that others were “dragged into it” and are now being coerced to protest "out of identification only and not personal will."