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Islamic Jihad, PA demand release of hunger-striking Palestinian detainee

Hisham Abu Hawash has refused to eat for 135 days in protest of his confinement by Israel; Islamic Jihad threatens violence in event of his ‘assassination’

Palestinians participate in a solidarity rally with hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee Hisham Abu Hawash in his hometown Dura, near Hebron, on December 7, 2021. (WAFA)
Palestinians participate in a solidarity rally with hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee Hisham Abu Hawash in his hometown Dura, near Hebron, on December 7, 2021. (WAFA)

Hours after rockets fired by Gaza terror groups landed off the coast of Tel Aviv, Islamic Jihad threatened further violence should a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner die of starvation.

Hisham Abu Hawash, a Palestinian from the small town of Dura, near Hebron, has been on a hunger strike in protest of his detention by Israel for 137 days, according to his lawyers.

The International Committee for the Red Cross warned in late December that Abu Hawash’s prolonged fast had placed him “in critical condition” that could potentially lead to his death.

“He is being subjected to a process of assassination, of elimination,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement on Saturday afternoon. “We will deal with the matter according to our commitment to respond to any criminal assassination by the enemy.”

Abu Hawash has been detained in Israel since October 2020, according to his lawyers. He has been held under Israel’s policy of administrative detention, meaning that he has not been charged with a crime.

The Shin Bet security service did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Abu Hawash’s case. Israel authorities regularly use administrative detention against those deemed to be plotting terror attacks.

Palestinian factions in Gaza have regularly threatened renewed violence in response to the conditions of hunger-striking prisoners. Most of these threats have not materialized; in most cases, Israeli authorities either agree not to renew the detainees’ detention or the prisoners end their fast.

The Palestinian Authority also passed on a demand to Israel that Abu Hawash be “immediately released,” senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh announced on Saturday.

“We hold the Israeli government entirely responsible” in the event of Abu Hawash’s death, al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter.

Israeli security officials say holding suspected terrorists without charges is sometimes the only way to prevent brutal attacks. Rights groups contend that Israel abuses the practice and deploys it against those who pose no imminent threat.

Tensions across Israel, the West Bank and Gaza have risen over the past few weeks. Israelis have grappled with a spate of Palestinian terror attacks that have left two Israeli civilians dead.

Many of the assailants were teenagers or young men with no clear organizational ties and armed only with a knife or their car. But two of the attacks were orchestrated by members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad wielding assault weapons.

Israeli soldiers near the site of where a civilian was injured by gunfire from the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, on December 29, 2021. (Flash90)

On Thursday, an Israeli civilian was injured after gunfire erupted from Gaza near the security fence. Israeli tanks shelled Hamas positions in northern Gaza shortly thereafter, wounding three, according to officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Earlier on Saturday, rockets fired from Gaza landed off the coast of central Israel, causing audible explosions.

There were no sirens warning of incoming rockets, in a sign that no projectiles were headed for populated areas. The Iron Dome missile defense system was not activated for the same reason.

Armed factions in Gaza said the rocket fire was “caused by weather conditions” (supposedly a lightning strike or some other malfunction causing a launcher to fire). It was not the first time the explanation has been used for the firing of projectiles toward Israel.

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