Palestinian prisoners suspend hunger strike following Israeli concessions

Published September 29th, 2015 - 03:51 GMT
A young Palestinian stands next to a graffiti portrait of Muhammad Allan, who was rearrested following a hunger strike that lasted longer than two months. (AFP/File)
A young Palestinian stands next to a graffiti portrait of Muhammad Allan, who was rearrested following a hunger strike that lasted longer than two months. (AFP/File)

Some 17 Palestinian prisoners have agreed to suspend a hunger strike following concessions from Israel's prison authorities, the head of the Palestinian Authority Committee for Prisoner's Affairs said Tuesday.

Issa Qaraqe said that the Israeli Prison Service would not extend the administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge -- of prisoners Nidal Abu Aker and Ghassan Zawahra, while it would reconsider the cases of the other prisoners.

The announcement came as a further victory for Palestinian prisoners, after the Palestinian Prisoner's Society said earlier in the day that Israel had also agreed to release former hunger striker Muhammad Allan when his six-month sentence ends in November.

At least five of the prisoners had been on hunger strike 42 days, while seven were reported as being in urgent need of medical attention.

The hunger strikers reportedly expressed gratitude to the Palestinian people and to all organizations that had supported them during their protest against Israeli's policy of administrative detention.

Earlier Tuesday, it looked doubtful that a deal would be reached after the Israeli Prison Service seemed ready to cancel scheduled negotiations.

The PA prisoners' committee had previously said that Israeli authorities had promised to gather the hunger strikers in Israel's Negev jail in order to negotiate a deal.

However, on Tuesday morning, the committee said that the Israeli Prison Service had transferred four of the hunger strikers out of the Negev jail.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the majority of prisoners who go on hunger strike are Palestinians in administrative detention, which allows for internment without trial or charge for six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

The policy has been strongly criticized by the international community as well as both Israeli and Palestinian rights activists.

Nidal Abu Aker, one of the hunger strikers to be released, has been held in administrative detention since June 28, 2014, but has spent a total of nine years of his life in administrative detention.

The prisoner, who comes from Duheisha refugee camp in Bethlehem, had refused to to take vitamins or medical tests during the hunger strike, despite reportedly suffering blood pressure issues and a stomach ulcer.

'Fundamental right' to peaceful protest

By the end of their hunger strike, the PA prisoners' committee was requesting urgent medical treatment for many of them, reporting that the men had lost "all power and strength."

However, the Israeli Prison Service refused to move them to hospital, arguing that they had not been on hunger strike long enough. They were held instead in solitary confinement.

They agreed to suspend their hunger strike shortly after a lawyer for the Palestinian Prisoner's Society, Jawad Boulos, told Ma'an that Israeli authorities had also agreed not to extend the six-month sentence of former hunger striker Muhammad Allan.

Allan undertook a 66-day hunger strike in June to protest his administrative detention.

He ended the strike in August after Israel agreed to suspend his sentence. However, earlier this month, Israeli authorities later reinstated his sentence after his health improved.

Allan immediately began a new hunger strike on Sept. 16, but suspended it two days later following consultations with his lawyer. He is now set to be released on Nov. 4, his lawyer said.

Allan's hunger strike raised fears that the Knesset, Israel's parliament, would make use of a law approved in July allowing the Israeli Prison Service to force feed hunger strikers if their condition becomes life-threatening.

However, Israel was reportedly unable to find any doctors willing to go through with the practice, which many believe amounts to torture under international law.

The UN has said that the law violates the "fundamental human right" to peaceful protest.


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