Hundreds protest at hospital treating Palestinian hunger striker
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Hundreds protest at hospital treating Palestinian hunger striker

Demonstrators condemn administrative detentions and call for release of Mohammed al-Qiq, who has fasted for 77 days

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A supporter of hunger striking Palestinian prisoner Mohammed al-Qiq holds a portrait as he demonstrates in solidarity with him on February 7, 2016, outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
A supporter of hunger striking Palestinian prisoner Mohammed al-Qiq holds a portrait as he demonstrates in solidarity with him on February 7, 2016, outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)

Hundreds of protesters on Tuesday gathered outside the Emek Medical Center in Afula, where a hunger-striking Palestinian detainee is hospitalized, to demand his immediate release from Israeli custody.

Mohammed al-Qiq’s condition is deteriorating due to a months-long hunger strike protesting his incarceration without trial by Israel, a security measure known as administrative detention. An alleged member of the Hamas terror group, Qiq has been in Israeli custody since November.

Some 300 demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, and chanted slogans denouncing Israel’s use of administrative detention as a “violation of law and justice,” Channel 10 reported.

Amnesty International said Monday that Qiq faces “imminent risk of death,” as a result of his 77-day fast. A statement released by the organization said that although Qiq declined to be examined by an independent physician, visible signs pointed to his “severe ill health.”

Qiq has already suffered permanent damage due to the lengthy hunger strike.

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court lifted Qiq’s administrative detention order, but ruled that he needs permission to leave the hospital.

His relatives can now visit him, but Qiq’s lawyer Jawad Boulos said his client would keep up the fast until he was fully free. Qiq’s wife Fayha Shalach also told a press conference last week he would not eat again until he was released.

Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank have also staged protests in solidarity with Qiq, and called on the international community to intervene on his behalf.

On Sunday, protesters in Gaza tried to force their way into the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, smashing garage windows and causing other damage, prompting the medical NGO to temporarily close its doors. ICRC’s Ramallah office was also temporarily shuttered Monday after a similar protest took place outside their building.

Faihaa al-Qiq, left, the wife of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Mohammed al-Qiq, demonstrates with fellow supporters in solidarity with him after Friday prayers in the West Bank town of Hebron on February 5, 2016. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)
Faihaa al-Qiq, left, the wife of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Mohammed al-Qiq, demonstrates with fellow supporters in solidarity with him after Friday prayers in the West Bank town of Hebron on February 5, 2016. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)

Palestinians held under administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold suspects virtually indefinitely without charge, have in the past used hunger strikes to protest their condition and rally the Palestinian street around their cause, at times winning freedom.

Qiq, a father of two and a correspondent for Saudi Arabia’s Almajd TV network, was arrested on November 21 at his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, says Qiq was arrested for “terror activity” as part of the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Qiq was jailed for a month in 2003 and then for 13 months in 2004 for Hamas-related activities.

In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 months on charges linked to his activities on the student council at the West Bank’s Birzeit University.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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