Palestinian inmates end hunger strikes after release dates set
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Palestinian inmates end hunger strikes after release dates set

Three prisoners had refused food for over two months; Ramallah official hails ‘victory’ over Israeli prison system

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinians hold posters against administrative detention and in support of Palestinian prisoners Bilal Kayed, Muhammad and Mahmud al-Balboul outside the United Nations building in the West Bank city of Ramallh, on August 22, 2016. (Flash90)
Palestinians hold posters against administrative detention and in support of Palestinian prisoners Bilal Kayed, Muhammad and Mahmud al-Balboul outside the United Nations building in the West Bank city of Ramallh, on August 22, 2016. (Flash90)

Three Palestinian prisoners ended months-long hunger strikes Wednesday after Israel set release dates for them.

Brothers Muhammad Balboul, 26, and Mahmoud Balboul, 23, have refused food since July 7 and July 4, respectively, while 25-year-old Malik al-Qadi began his hunger strike July 16, protesting their detentions without trial, a policy known as administrative detention.

All three are currently hospitalized and al-Qadi, who fell into a coma 60 days into his strike, was reported to be “fighting death” last week.

The release date for the Balboul brothers was set for December 8, while al-Qadi is slated to be released on Thursday.

Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, said the strikers had notched a “victory” over the Israeli prison system.”

The planned release of the detainees was the result of “a great political effort” carried out by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leadership along with local and international human rights groups, he said in a statement.

The three are the latest in a series of Palestinian held under administrative detention to sue for their release by refusing food.

Administrative detention is a controversial counterterrorism measure that allows terror suspects to be held without charge for six-month stints, and can be renewed indefinitely. It is generally used for Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity but has recently also been applied to several dozen Jewish terrorism suspects.

Of more than 7,500 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails, about 700 are being held in administrative detention, according to Palestinian rights groups.

On September 14, some 100 other Palestinian prisoners announced a hunger strike in support of the three. A day earlier, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition to cancel al-Qadi’s administrative detention.

An Israeli army spokesperson told The Times of Israel al-Qadi was jailed “due to his involvement in the terrorist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which threatens the security of the region.”

On September 11, the High Court upheld a controversial law allowing the Israel Prisons Service to force-feed inmates who are on hunger strike.

Critics say force-feeding is inhumane and deprives inmates of a basic human right. Israel has yet to use the measure, according to Doctors for Human Rights.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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