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Israelis Credit TV for Pacifying Prisoners

February 12, 2006 GMT

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli army jailers at a tough facility for Palestinian security prisoners in the Negev desert have discovered a unique deterrent against disturbances: television.

In the year since the first TV set was installed in the Ketziot prison, there have been no serious disturbances that required tear gas for dispersal _ up to then a common occurrence, said the soldiers’ weekly ``Bamahane″ in its current issue.

The prison commander, identified only as Lt. Col. Avi by the magazine, said the security prisoners spend their time watching television instead of planning disturbances. ``The culture of planning hostile activity here is withering away,″ he told the weekly.

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Jailers control the channel selection, the magazine said, limiting viewing to the three main Israeli channels, CNN and a Jordanian TV station.

Further ``distractions″ are planned, the weekly reported _ backgammon games, basketball and volleyball.

The commanding officer made it clear that this is not a matter of improving the conditions for the Palestinian prisoners. ``We are here to see to it that they pass their time in prison with causing trouble and organizing terror attacks from inside the prison,″ Avi said.

The desert prison is made up of rows of tents, and Palestinian prisoners often organize themselves into cells that parallel militant groups outside. The inmates at the prison are serving sentences after being convicted in military courts on security offenses.

Israel is holding about 8,000 Palestinian prisoners.