by Daniel Siryoti
Family of fallen IDF officer whose body is being held captive by Hamas in Gaza: Group must be made to understand that keeping captives is a liability, not an asset
Some 150 Hamas security prisoners from the Gaza Strip imprisoned in Israel for security related offenses have been notified by the Israel Prison Service that they will no longer be allowed family visits, Hamas claimed Thursday.
The Hamas prisoners' administration said that the IPS did not explain why it had decided to suspend the prisoners' visits.
Prison Service officials later confirmed that the decision will go into effect on Friday.
The Gaza Prisoners' Affairs Ministry warned of serious consequences, calling the move "a declaration of war."
"We condemn this punishment of the prisoners from Gaza. This is a declaration of war against the prisoners. This decision must not be allowed to go through at any price," the Gaza-based ministry said.
The family of the late Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed in Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and whose body is being held captive by Hamas in Gaza, issued a statement Thursday saying that "for over two and a half years, the Goldin family has been demanding that the Israeli government take action to stop family visits and privileges for Hamas prisoners in Israel."
"The family believes that the equation, as it pertains to the abducted [Israelis], needs to be turned around on Hamas and pressure needs to be exerted on the [Hamas] leadership. They need to be made to understand that keeping them captive is not an asset but a liability," the family said.
The family of Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who was also killed in Operation Protective Edge and whose body is also being held by Hamas said, "We ask the government of Israel and the man leading it -- don't let up. This is the correct decision and we hope its purpose is to bring Oron back from Hamas imprisonment as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, Hamas officials have denied reports of significant breakthroughs in talks aimed at securing the release of captive Israelis in Gaza. According to reports in the Arabic-language media, a delegation of Hamas officials, under Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, recently discussed the matter with senior Egyptian intelligence officials and said that until Israel frees 50 Hamas prisoners who were reimprisoned after their release in the 2011 Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange deal, there would be no direct or indirect negotiations for the release of Israeli captives.
Less than a month ago, a group of about 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners, mostly aligned with the Fatah movement, ended a 40-day hunger strike led by archterrorist Marwan Barghouti, who is serving out five life sentences for terrorism.
The prisoners were protesting their conditions and stopped the strike after Israel met some of their demands, including increasing family visits from once to twice a month. Israel gave its consent after the Palestinian Authority committed to paying for the families' transportation to visit their relatives in prison. At the time, the Hamas leadership ordered its prisoners not to take part in the hunger strike, claiming that Barghouti had launched it merely to shore up his own position in the Fatah leadership.
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