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High Court rejects Palestinian detainee’s appeal, urges him to end hunger strike

Judges express hope Khalil Awawdeh, who now weighs 80 pounds after fasting for six months and is in danger of ‘sudden death,’ will ‘come to his senses’

Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian who has been on a hunger strike for several months protesting being jailed without charge or trial under what Israel refers to as administrative detention, lies in bed at Asaf Harofeh Hospital in Be'er Ya'akov on August 24, 2022. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)
Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian who has been on a hunger strike for several months protesting being jailed without charge or trial under what Israel refers to as administrative detention, lies in bed at Asaf Harofeh Hospital in Be'er Ya'akov on August 24, 2022. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

The High Court of Justice Court on Tuesday rejected a petition for the release of a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for nearly six months and whose lawyer says is in danger of “sudden death.”

Khalil Awawdeh is protesting being held by Israel in what’s known as administrative detention, a practice in which detainees suspected of terror activities are imprisoned for months or years without charge or trial.

In recent pictures he resembles a human skeleton, his skin tightly stretched over a bony frame.

Israel says administrative detention is needed to keep dangerous suspects off the streets without revealing sensitive intelligence. Palestinians and rights groups say the practice denies detainees the basic right of due process.

Awawdeh’s lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, says Israel accuses him of being a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, an allegation he denies. Islamic Jihad demanded his release as part of a cease-fire that ended a flare-up of violence in Gaza earlier this month but did not identify him as a member.

Haddad says the 40-year-old Awawdeh weighs 37 kilograms (around 80 pounds) and is suffering from neurological damage. He took vitamins over two weeks in June when he thought his case was being resolved but has otherwise only had water since the strike began in March, his family says.

Protesters gather with a Palestinian flag outside the hospital in Be’er Yaakov where a hunger-striking security prisoner, Khalil Awawdeh, pictured in the placards, detained by Israel as an alleged terrorist, is in deteriorating health, August 13, 2022. Arabic on the placards reads, ‘No administrative detention. Freedom for Khalil Awawdeh.’ (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

“He is in a stage between life and death,” Haddad said. “According to the medical literature, he is in danger of a sudden death.”

In its Tuesday ruling, the court said it “hopes that the petitioner will come to his senses and stop the hunger strike,” adding that it was confident he would receive the necessary medical care.

Israel has officially suspended his arrest, but he remains in custody at an Israeli hospital.

Several Palestinians have gone on prolonged hunger strikes in recent years to protest being held in administrative detention. In most cases, Israel eventually released them after their health significantly deteriorated. None have died in custody, but many have suffered irreparable neurological damage.

Dalal, the wife of Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian prisoner in Israel, displays his picture at the family house, in the West Bank town of Idna, west of Hebron, August 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Israel is currently holding some 4,400 Palestinian prisoners, including militants who have carried out deadly attacks, as well as people arrested at protests or for throwing stones. The Palestinians view all of them as political prisoners held for resisting Israel’s 55-year military occupation of territories the Palestinians want for a future state.

Around 670 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention. The number has jumped since March, as Israel has carried out near-nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank following a series of deadly attacks against Israelis.

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