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Palestinian hunger striker freed from Israeli custody after 63-day protest

Ghadanfar Abu Atwan to be transferred to Ramallah hospital after ending fast; Shin Bet hints he could be rearrested if he’s again deemed a terror threat

Ghadanfar Abu Atwan is seen in the Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot, on July 8, 2021. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Ghadanfar Abu Atwan is seen in the Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot, on July 8, 2021. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A Palestinian man who had been held by Israel without charge was released from custody and will be transferred to a Palestinian hospital in the West Bank after being on a hunger strike for more than two months, his supporters said Thursday.

A senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command signed off on canceling Ghadanfar Abu Atwan’s administrative detention order on Thursday evening, after discussions between Israeli and Palestinian officials, according to the Haaretz daily.

Amjad al-Najjar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said on Thursday night that Abu Atwan will be released from an Israeli hospital in the “coming hours” and transferred to a hospital in Ramallah.

A lawyer for Abu Atwan earlier said that his client’s condition deteriorated in recent days and that he wanted to be moved from the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot.

Medical records dated July 7 and reviewed by The Associated Press show that Abu Atwan has gone through several periods where he refused to drink water or fluids with sugar, salt, or vitamins.

The records described him as “noticeably weak, almost unable to speak” and unable to move his lower limbs.

The case has drawn renewed attention to “administrative detention,” a controversial Israeli policy in which it holds suspects without charge for months at a time.

Attorney Jawad Boulos said Abu Atwan was arrested in October, released and arrested again, but never charged.

Abu Atwan’s administrative detention was suspended two weeks ago by Israel’s Supreme Court due to his dire health condition. But the court’s ruling left him “sick and captive in the hospital,” Boulos said.

“His only demand today is that he be released immediately and return to his home free, or that he be transferred to a Palestinian hospital, so that he can complete his treatment there,” Boulos told the AP earlier Thursday.

Abu Atwan, 27, is a resident of Dura, near the West Bank city of Hebron. He had previously been charged for throwing stones toward a military vehicle and received an 18-month sentence in 2014. In 2018 he was again charged with membership in an unrecognized association, and received a 20-month sentence, according to Haaretz.

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service said Abu Atwan is a member of a Palestinian terror group but is no longer seen as a threat because of his health condition. It also confirmed he was being transferred to the Palestinian Authority for treatment at a Palestinian hospital.

It added that if Abu Atwan is once again deemed a threat, “required actions” would be taken.

According to Haaretz, the administrative detention order was supposed to last until October.

Administrative detention enables authorities to detain people for extended periods of time without leveling formal charges against them, in a practice decried by critics as undemocratic and abusive, but defended by the security establishment as a necessary measure in cases where revealing the evidence would harm national security.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, an advocacy group that represents Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, said Abu Atwan began his hunger strike May 5 in prison and was subject to abuse and assault. It alleged that he was then transferred to several prisons, beaten, and sprayed with a substance that made it hard to breathe.

On June 21, the organization said, Abu Atwan’s health seriously deteriorated and he required urgent medical attention.

The hospital refused to comment on his condition, citing privacy laws.

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