The Israel Prison Service will set up a special emergency room at its medical center to treat hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Channel 2 television reported Sunday.
The decision came during a special debate Sunday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and security officials.
Earlier Sunday, Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights posted on Twitter that the doctors at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba refused to treat Mohammed Allaan, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for 51 days, against his will.
Sources at Soroka told Channel 2, however, that “if he gets to the state of certain risk to his life, he’ll be force-fed.”
#breaking news: Hunger striker Muhammad Allan's hospital doctors refuse to treat him against his will.
— PHRI (@PHRIsrael) August 9, 2015
Israeli authorities have declared their intention to force-feed Allaan, his lawyer said Saturday.
If carried out, it would be the first case since the adoption last month of a new law permitting the practice.
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned Friday that the alleged Islamic Jihad activist, held without charge since November, was “at immediate risk” of death after fasting for so long.
Allaan’s attorney Jamil al-Khatib told AFP that Israeli judicial officials “informed me of the intention to proceed with the force-feeding of Mr. Allaan.
“I have informed him of this, but it does not alter his intention to continue his strike,” Khatib explained, adding that his client had actually been refusing food for 55 days by Saturday.
He added that Allaan was placed in intensive hospital care when his body became unable to absorb drinking water.
The Palestinian Authority health minister warned Saturday that the force-feeding procedure itself would endanger Allaan’s life.
Allaan, himself a lawyer, is being held under a procedure allowing indefinite internment without charge.
Palestinians in Israeli prisons regularly go on hunger strike in protest at conditions, particularly those who, like him, are held in what Israel calls administrative detention. Last month, Israel freed Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan after a 56-day hunger strike that brought him close to death.
On July 30, parliament approved a law allowing prisoners on hunger strike facing death to be force-fed, sparking criticism from rights groups and doctors.
While the new law does not specifically mention Palestinians, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who sponsored the legislation, said last week it was necessary since “hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel.”
The Israeli Medical Association has balked, however, at participating in such treatment.
In a letter last month addressed to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, IMA Chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said he had given doctors an instruction to act solely according to the demands of ethics and not to force-feed prisoners on a hunger strike.
“The Medical Association views the intention to legislate force-feeding very severely,” Eidelman said. “Our objection was expressed to [representatives of] government ministries and the attorney general at every opportunity.”