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The significance of electing a new Hamas leadership in Israeli prisons

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The Central Elections Committee for Hamas prisoners held by Israel announced the end of the elections in late December for the senior leadership of the movement’s prisoners for 2019 to 2021. The elections were held in accordance with the regulations followed by Hamas prisoners and included all 22 Israeli prisons and detention centres.

The Hamas prisoner elections took place at a time of high tension between Palestinian prisoners and the Israeli prison authorities due to the almost daily raids by Israeli guards on the prisoners in their cells. The poll resulted in a new regulatory body composed of 11 prisoners, in addition to the senior leaders of the four largest prisons. The Committee is headed by Mohammed Arman.

The idea of establishing a unified leadership for Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons arose in 1995 when several discussions took place. However, the open hunger strike announced by Hamas prisoners in September 2004 was a major event that prompted a number of prisoner leaderships to form the central committee. They did so in order to present a united front to the challenges imposed by the Israeli prison authorities.

The practical initiative for the formation of the committee came from a group of Hamas leaders held by Israel: Hassan Yousef, Mohammad Al-Natsheh, Yahya Sinwar, Hassan Al-Maqadma and Abdel Nasser Issa. This was followed by the process of explaining the idea and its mechanisms to Hamas groups in every prison. The idea was not unanimously accepted, though; criticism led to some prisoners refusing to participate due to the difficulty of communication between prisons, which usually took place via lawyers or smuggled letters before prisoners started to use mobile phones smuggled into the prisons and detention centres.

READ: Israel ‘unprepared’ for new prisoner swap: Hamas

After a process lasting several months, the prisoners in central prisons elected the following 17 committee members: Mohammed Natsheh, Abdul Khaliq Natsheh, Musa Dudeen, Khaled Tafesh, Yahya Sinwar, Rawhi Mushtaha, Hassan Maqadma, Tawfiq Abu Naeem, Ali Al-Amoudi, Abdul Nasser Eissa, Jamal Abu Al-Hija, Talal Al-Baz, Abbas Al-Sayed, Saleh Al-Aroury, Mahmoud Issa, Jihad Yaghmour and Ahlam Al-Tamimi. Among them they elected Sheikh Mohammed Natsheh as the chairman of the committee and Abdel Nasser Eissa as the coordinator.

The Hamas prisoners’ leadership committee in........

© Middle East Monitor