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Israel 'playing with fire' on Hamas prisoner issue

Israel hopes that by canceling family visits of Hamas prisoners, the organization will be pressured into advancing a prisoner exchange deal.
Palestinian Hamas militants stand guard during a rally marking Palestinian Prisoner Day, in Gaza City April 17, 2016. The sign reads, "The enemy will not know news about you unless it pays heavy prices." REUTERS/Mohammed Salem - RTX2AARA
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The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip announced June 29 that Israel was denying family visits to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. A press release by the spokesman from Hamas' prisoners department said, “The aim of this decision is to exert pressure on the Hamas leadership regarding the missing and [captive Israelis in] Gaza and is a surrender to the pressure of the [Israeli] soldiers’ families, who called for the [Hamas] prisoners to be punished.” Leaders of the jailed Hamas prisoners also issued a statement to the media, calling the decision a declaration of war. “We will not allow this decision to stand, whatever the price may be,” the group warned.

The Israel Prison Service has refused to respond to the reports out of the Gaza Strip, but an Israeli security source confirmed that on orders from the political echelon, families from Gaza are no longer allowed to visit their relatives in Israeli jails. The family of Oron Shaul, an Israeli soldier killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, welcomed the decision, saying it was the right way to free their son as soon as possible. Since the end of the 2014 fighting, the Shaul family and that of another soldier killed in action in Gaza, Hadar Goldin, have been demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make any dealings with Hamas conditional upon the return of the bodies of their sons, including prohibiting family visits.

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