Palestinian hunger striker held by Israel could die at any moment, doctor warns

A Palestinian hunger striker held by Israel is in critical condition and could die at any time from a variety of illnesses, a doctor who examined him said on Monday after the country’s High Court of Justice rejected an appeal to free the man.

Khalil Awawdeh, 40, has been on a hunger strike since March to protest his alleged administrative detention, an Israeli policy of holding Palestinians for their alleged involvement in militant activities. Detainees can be held without charge or trial for months or years at a time, without seeing the alleged evidence against them. Israel describes the policy as a necessary security measure, while critics say it is a violation of due process.

Awawdeh’s family say they have been on a hunger strike for 170 days, subsisting on nothing but water. Photos of Awawdeh taken by his lawyer on Friday show him emaciated and lying in a hospital bed.

Dr. Lina Qasem-Hassan, a doctor from Physicians for Human Rights who visited Awadeh earlier this month, said he was extremely thin and suffering from malnutrition.

She said there are signs of neurological damage, with symptoms including memory loss, an inability to concentrate, involuntary eye movement and loss of near vision. She said there was a risk of heart failure or kidney failure at any time.

“There is no question that his life is at risk,” he said.

Dalal, the wife of Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian prisoner in Israel, shows her photograph at the family home, in the West Bank city of Idna, west of Hebron, on August 17, 2022. I (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser , File, Archive)

A military court on Friday temporarily suspended Khalil Awawdeh’s detention to allow him to receive medical care in an Israeli hospital without restrictions, but said he would be arrested again once his condition improved and he could return to jail.

His lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, filed an appeal last week with the High Court of Justice to have his client’s detention completely overturned, but was rejected on Sunday.

In its ruling, the high court said it had reviewed classified security information about Awawdeh and found there was “a strong and sound justification for the administrative detention decision.”

Haddad said he would file another request for release as soon as his condition worsens. “This is the equation, a difficult equation,” he said.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Awawdeh was visited on Monday by Joint List MP Ofer Cassif, who in a video statement recorded at the striker’s hospital bedside characterized his administrative detention as an IDF “kidnapping” and expressed solidarity with the striker. effort.

Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (R) visits hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh at Asaf Harofeh Hospital in Be’er Ya’akov on August 22, 2022. (Screenshot/Channel 13)

A barely audible Awawdeh murmured his thanks to Cassif in response.

The Israeli army arrested Awawdeh last December, claiming he was an operative for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, a charge his lawyer has dismissed.

PIJ 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.

Awawdeh is one of several Palestinian prisoners who have staged prolonged hunger strikes in recent years to protest their administrative detentions. Many continued to suffer from permanent health problems after his release.

Israel says that administrative detentions help keep terrorists off the streets and allow the government to detain suspects without disclosing sensitive intelligence or evidence against the suspects. Critics say it denies prisoners due process and is aimed at crushing opposition to Israel’s 55-year occupation of land that Palestinians seek for a future state.

Israel currently holds some 4,400 Palestinian prisoners, including those who have carried out deadly attacks, as well as people arrested at protests or for throwing stones.

File: Protesters gather with a Palestinian flag outside a hospital in Be’er Yaakov where a hunger-striking security prisoner, Khalil Awawdeh, pictured on the banners, is in deteriorating health, August 13, 2022. ( AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

Some 670 Palestinians are currently in administrative detention, a number that has risen since March when Israel began making near-nightly arrests in the West Bank following a series of terror attacks.

Awawdeh’s family says she hasn’t eaten since March, although she did take some vitamin supplements for two weeks in June when she thought her case was resolving.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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