Report: Israel Halted Visits to Terrorists by Families

A view of the Israeli Prison Authorities Gilboa Prison, near Yezreel Valley. (Flash90)

Israel has apparently halted all visits by families to terrorists in Israeli prisons, Channel Two reported – with evidence of the policy, which has not been officially announced, evident in a debate on the matter between Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit. In a letter to Erdan, Mandelblit said that he would have a hard time defending the policy, and that the Public Security Minister, who devised the policy, should reconsider.

In recent weeks, word has spread among families of terrorists that they are not allowed to visit their family members in Israeli prisons. The reason for the policy, according to sources in the government, is to generate pressure on Hamas to compromise on terms for the return of the remains of of missing Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, Oron Shaul, Hy”d, and the return of Avram Mengistu, presumably still alive.

Hamas has said that it would release information on the three in exchange for the release of terrorists, with a bigger deal later on that could lead to the actual exchange. Hamas sources, quoted in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, said that the structure of the deal was similar to the one that preceded the actual release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, when in 2009 Israel released 20 female terrorists in exchange for a video showing Shalit, a prelude to the major release of terrorists for Shalit in 2011.

The policy is being influenced by the Goldin and Shaul families, who have started a group that seeks to change the paradigm by which Israel gets back missing soldiers. In a social media post, Tzur Goldin, Hadar’s twin brother, wrote that “we can bring about the return of our soldiers by causing the terrorists to pay a high price for every moment our people are held prisoner. The time has come to change course, and make Hamas feel some pain.”

In a statement, the Justice Ministry said that the matter was under discussion with Erdan, and that visits were indeed halted as of July 1st, as Erdan requested. “In an examination of the legal aspects of this action it was found that there could be indeed issues that need to be addressed. However, we wish to stress that there is no ‘tension’ over the matter between the minister and the State Attorney. The government is authorized to make decisions on matters such as these.”