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Doctors refuse to force-feed fasting Palestinian inmate

Hunger striker Mohammed Allaan moved from Beersheba hospital to facility in Ashkelon; 100 other prisoners quit strike

Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Allaan (AFP)
Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Allaan (AFP)

A Palestinian prisoner allegedly affiliated with Islamic Jihad, who is on a 52-day hunger strike, was moved under heavy guard to a hospital in Ashkelon Monday, after doctors at the Beersheba hospital where he was kept refused to force-feed him.

Mohammed Allaan was accompanied on the trip by a slew of top officials from Magen David Adom emergency health services and the Health Ministry, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was said to have personally briefed the escort.

The incident prompted the Israel Prison Service to set up a special emergency room at its medical center to start treating hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners internally.

The activist, held without charge since November, was placed in intensive care when he became unable to absorb drinking water. He, along with some 120 additional prisoners, have been protesting the terms of their incarceration as well as their treatment from prison authorities.

Doctors were instructed to force-feed Allaan only if his life was in immediate danger. If carried out, the force-feeding would be the first instance of the practice in Israel since the Knesset’s adoption on July 30 of a new law legalizing it — a move decried by UN officials in the West Bank.

Israeli medical group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel released a short statement saying that doctors at Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital had decided to refrain from treating Allaan without his consent.

“Even though the hospital’s ethics committee approved a decision to take the prisoner’s blood sample against his will, doctors ultimately decided to respect his position and will refuse to perform the necessary tests as long as he is not ready to accept treatment,” the statement read.

On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Allaan was “at immediate risk” of death.

Allaan’s attorney Jamil al-Khatib said that his client would proceed with the strike even if he is force-fed.

Israel holds hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners without trial for indefinitely renewable six-month terms. Last week, Israel extended the policy to include Israeli security prisoners as well.

Meanwhile, over 100 Palestinian prisoners who were on a mass hunger strike since last week temporarily terminated their protest for a fortnight after Israeli prison authorities partially agreed to a list of their demands, a Palestinian Authority official said.

The Israel Prison Service agreed to return 107 prisoners to the Nafha prison in southern Israel, after they were transferred to a different jail as a punitive measure, Qadura Fares, PA minister for prisoners’ affairs, told Haaretz Sunday.

The hunger strike was initiated by a group of prisoners from the Gaza Strip, who were demonstrating against Israeli searches of their cells on the day their families paid a visit to the prison.

UN officials slammed Israel’s new policy of force-feeding hunger strikers in danger of death, calling the law “a cause for concern to those who work to protect the right to health of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Peaceful protests such as hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners are “a fundamental human right,” the officials said.

Citing the prisoners’ “prolonged detention on administrative orders without charge,” the officials described the hunger strikes as “a nonviolent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situations.”

Israel has claimed the detainees, who have resort to an appeal to the High Court of Justice but do not receive criminal trials before being detained indefinitely, are engaged in terror planning activities. It says the prisoners would be able to continue these activities if security forces were forced to produce the level of evidence required by criminal court proceedings in order to attain convictions.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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