Residents of Rishon LeTzion again protested Thursday night over rumors that the Prisons Service was planning to hospitalize Palestinian terrorists who are on a hunger strike, as the International Red Cross said in a statement that the strike has entered a “dangerous phase.” The IRC has been examining the terrorists, and doctors have said that some of the 1,500-some prisoners have experienced “irreversible damage.” In a statement, meanwhile, the Prisons Service said that the condition of the terrorists was certainly not as dire as described by the IRC – and that it has no plans to hospitalize the terrorists anywhere, including in Rishon LeTzion.
The hunger strike will soon enter its seventh week, with prisoners ostensibly refraining from eating, although most are drinking water. The terrorists who are participating in the strike have made over a dozen demands, including better and more food, more visits with relatives, and more visits from international medical groups like the Red Cross, which the terrorists are demanding be allowed to visit them twice a month. Most significant for them, security officials say, is the demand that public phones be installed in prisons to allow terrorists to contact families. Representatives of the terrorist prisoners say that the phone calls would not entail a security risk, as they would be monitored by Israel. The entire impact, they say, would be “humanitarian.”
Some 150 terrorists have been hospitalized in recent days, including archterrorist Marwan Barghouti, who famously was caught cheating on his hunger strike several weeks ago. Most were returned to prison after their examinations, said Walla News, but at least a dozen have been hospitalized.
According to several sources, the Prisons Service is preparing for mass hospitalizations of the terrorists – and is said to have chosen a geriatric hospital in Rishon LeTzion for the purpose, as they will be able to isolate the terrorists from other patients. On the strength of those sources, residents of the city have in recent days held mass protests against the proposal. The Malben Geriatric Hospital has available space, but is also caring long-term for some 70 elderly Holocaust survivors. Members of the workers’ committee of the hospital told Yisrael Hayom that it was “inconceivable that they would put security prisoners and murderers in the same facility as survivors. For years they ignored this institution and now they want to turn it into a hospital for terrorists.” In a statement, Rishon LeTzion Mayor Dov Tsur said he had contacted the Interior Ministry to “register our vigorous protest to use the hospital for this purpose. The hospital is located on city property and was rented to the Health Ministry for the care of elderly patients, and no other purpose. We will take all necessary steps to prevent the use of the institution for security prisoners.”
In response, a senior Prisons Service official told Walla News that rumors on using the hospital to house sick terrorists was just that. “This entire story has no basis in reality. There is no intention whatsoever to hospitalize security prisoners in this hospital,” the official said. However, sources in the Rishon LeTzion Municipality said that they had specifically been told by Defense Ministry officials that the hospital could be used for that purpose if necessary, although there were no current plans to do so.