The cabinet approved Sunday draft legislation that would enable Israeli prison authorities to force feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.
The legislation was proposed by the last government and revived by new Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan last week. The draft passed its first reading in the preceding Knesset, but did not reach the required second and third readings to be passed into law.
The legislation comes as activists have warned that one hunger striking Palestinian prisoner is in critical condition and other security detainees have threatened to join him, bringing renewed attention to the issue.
“Terror has put on a new face the last several years in its attempts to boycott and delegitimize Israel,” Erdan said in a statement on Facebook.
Erdan said he would seek to push the bill through the Knesset as soon as possible. After being given the cabinet’s okay, it still must go through three Knesset readings.
“Security prisoners are interested in turning hunger strikes into a new kind of suicide attack that would threaten the State of Israel. We cannot allow anyone to threaten us and we will not allow prisoners to die in our prisons,” Erdan said.
The Israel Prison Service has said that four prisoners are currently refusing to eat, and has warned of an extensive hunger strike after the month-long Ramadan holiday, which begins June 18.
Last week, the Palestinian government warned that hunger-striking prisoner Khader Adnan was “in danger of dying” after 36 days of protest.
“Israel is entirely responsible for the life of prisoners in administrative detention,” it said in a statement, referring to a procedure under which Israel can hold Palestinian prisoners indefinitely for renewable six-month periods.
Adnan was “in danger of dying,” it added.
The prisoner was hospitalized several days ago, and he is continuing his protest against the conditions of his imprisonment, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
Two other prisoners are also staging a hunger strike — Mohammed Rashdan, who is protesting against being deprived of family visits, and Ayman al-Sharbati, an East Jerusalem resident placed in solitary confinement.
The Israel Prison Service said it does not have the resources to handle large numbers of hunger-striking prisoners.
In 2012 and 2013, a large hunger strike and Palestinian protests led Israel to release a number of prisoners from administrative detention.