Palestinian hunger striker says he’ll end fast, claims Israel agreed to set him free
Jerusalem yet to confirm agreement with administrative detainee Khalil Awawdeh that would end his nearly six-month-long hunger strike
A Palestinian detainee held without charge or trial by Israel said Wednesday that he will suspend his nearly six-month hunger strike after reaching an agreement that will see him released in October.
Lawyers and physicians have warned that Khalil Awawdeh, a 40-year-old father of four, is at risk of dying and already suffering neurological damage from the prolonged hunger strike. In recent pictures, he resembles a human skeleton, his skin tightly stretched over a bony frame.
In a video circulated online Wednesday and apparently shot from his hospital bed, Awawdeh said that an agreement had been reached for his release, calling it a “resounding victory” for the Palestinian people.
Israel accuses Awawdeh of being a member of the Islamic Jihad terror group, an allegation he denies. The group had demanded his release as part of the ceasefire that ended three days of heavy fighting in Gaza earlier this month, without identifying him as a member.
Israeli security sources told Hebrew-language media that Awawdeh had committed, in writing, to not resume terror activities and would remain in an Israeli hospital until he has fully recovered.
Awawdeh has been protesting being held without charge or trial in what’s known as administrative detention. Israel says the practice is needed to keep dangerous terrorists off the streets without revealing sensitive intelligence. The Palestinians and rights groups say it denies detainees the basic right of due process.
The Commission of Detainee Affairs, part of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Awawdeh had reached an agreement that would see him released on October 2, “after fighting an epic battle for which he sacrificed his flesh and life.”
There was no official comment from Israeli officials, and the exact details of the agreement were unclear.
Ahlam Haddad, Awawdeh’s lawyer, said this week that her client 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.
Israel had officially suspended his arrest, but he remained 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 has eventually released them after their health significantly deteriorated. None have died in custody, but many have suffered irreparable neurological damage.
Israel is currently holding 743 administrative detainees, the highest number since 2008, according to the Israeli human rights group HaMoked, which tracks the number using official figures obtained through freedom of information requests.
The number of administrative detainees has shot up in recent months as Israeli forces have carried out nightly raids in the West Bank following a series of deadly attacks against Israelis earlier this year. Nearly all administrative detainees are Palestinian, as the practice is rarely used with Jewish detainees.
Israel is currently holding some 4,400 Palestinian prisoners, including terrorists who have carried out deadly attacks, as well as people arrested at protests or for throwing stones.