Israel will not release Palestinian hunger striker whose 'life is in danger'

Khalil Awawdeh is one of several detainees refusing to eat in protest over 'administrative detention'

Protesters with placards featuring the face of Khalil Awawdeh gather outside the hospital where he is being held. AP
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An Israeli military court has rejected an appeal for release by a Palestinian prisoner on a 165-day hunger strike in protest at being held without charge or trial, his lawyer said.

Khalil Awawdeh weighs 42 kilograms, suffers from severe neurological symptoms and his life is in “immediate danger”, says a human rights group physician.

He is one of several Palestinian detainees who have gone on prolonged hunger strikes in protest over what is known as administrative detention.

Israel says the father of four is a militant. Mr Awawdeh, 40, has denied that.

He has not eaten during the strike other than for a 10-day period in which he received vitamin injections, his family said.

The Islamic Jihad militant group demanded his release as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended three days of heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip earlier this month, but did not identify him as a member.

Israel says administrative detention is needed to keep dangerous militants off the streets and to hold suspects without divulging sensitive intelligence.

Critics say the form of detention, which is almost exclusively used for Palestinians, denies them due process. Administrative detainees can be held for months or years without charge or trial.

Ahlam Haddad, a lawyer for Mr Awawdeh, said the military court had rejected his appeal for release.

Dalal Awawdeh poses with a poster of her imprisoned husband Khalil Awawdeh at their home, in the West Bank village of Idna. AP

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service has not commented on his case.

Dr Lina Qasem-Hassan, of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, visited Mr Awawdeh on Thursday at the hospital where he was transferred after his condition worsened.

She said he was handcuffed to a bed and surrounded by guards.

“He suffers from severe neurological symptoms and cognitive impairment, which might be irreversible,” the rights group said in a statement. “His life is in immediate danger.”

Israel is currently holding about 4,400 Palestinian prisoners, including militants who have carried out deadly attacks, as well as people arrested at protests or for throwing stones.

About 670 Palestinians are held in administrative detention, a number that jumped in March as Israel began near-nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank following deadly attacks against Israelis.

Israel says it provides due process and largely imprisons those who threaten its security, though a small number are held for petty crimes.

Palestinians and human rights groups say the system is designed to quash opposition to Israel’s 55-year military occupation of land that the Palestinians want for a future state.

Updated: August 16, 2022, 5:23 AM