A fight erupted in an Israeli hospital Wednesday night between Jewish Israelis and relatives of a Palestinian man recovering after a two-month hunger strike protesting his detention without trial, police said.
The brawl broke out at the Barzilai Hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, where the former hunger striker, Mohammed Allaan, is being treated.
“Police called to the scene separated the two sides until tempers cooled,” a statement said.
“Five people involved in the fight and in disturbing public order… were arrested,” the statement said, adding that the cause of the fight was unclear.
The news website Ynet reported that the scuffle involved relatives of Allaan and the family of a Jewish patient also being treated at Barzilai. The report said hospital equipment was damaged.
Around 8:30 p.m. the police hotline for Israel Police’s Southern District received a call regarding the brawl. A police spokesperson said forces from the Ashkelon Police arrived at the scene and separated the two sides. “We will continue to show zero tolerance toward violence of any kind,” a police official said.
A councilman from the Ashkelon municipality, Moshe Attias, who witnessed the brawl, accused Allaan’s family of starting the scuffle.
“The security guard asked nicely that no members of any family enter [the ward] after visiting hours. Allaan’s family started attacking the security guard and then a family of a Jewish patient rushed to help him, so they attacked the family. Three Jews were sent the emergency room with bruises,” he said.
Attias told Ynet that Allaan should be kept under guard. “This is an outrage. They forsake the security of visitors and patients. I will not rest until he is kicked out of this hospital. I will organize protests every day until the State of Israel starts protecting its citizens,” he said.
A relative of Allaan said that the family was “sick of racists not leaving the premises. They continue to hurt us and the visitors and there’s no one to stop them. Mohammed Allaan should not have been in prison because he didn’t do anything and constitutes no risk for Israel. The real danger is from racists who are trying to inflame the place.”
Allaan, 31, an attorney, ended his hunger strike Thursday after Israel’s top court suspended an order under which he had been detained without trial since November.
Said to be a member of the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad, Allaan had twice been in a coma and has reportedly vowed to resume fasting if the courts reinstate his detention.
On August 16, his Arab supporters and Jewish detractors clashed with police near the hospital. At the time, Allaan’s supporters had planned to stage a rally outside the hospital but Jewish right-wing activists confronted them, chanting racist slogans and saying they hoped Allaan would die.
AFP contributed to this report.