Free after hunger strike, Palestinian security detainee comes home to hero’s welcome

Kayed Fasfous released following 131-day hunger strike, along with five other Palestinians, who were held without charges in Israeli prisons for security reasons

Hunger-striking Palestinian security prisoner Kayed Fasfous is given a hero's welcome in his hometown of Dura, near Hebron, after his release from Israeli prison on December 5, 2021. (WAFA)
Hunger-striking Palestinian security prisoner Kayed Fasfous is given a hero's welcome in his hometown of Dura, near Hebron, after his release from Israeli prison on December 5, 2021. (WAFA)

Israeli authorities released a Palestinian security detainee on Sunday whose marathon 131-day hunger strike drew international attention.

Kayed Fasfous, a Fatah member from Dura, near Hebron, was filmed arriving triumphant in his hometown. Official Palestinian Authority media live-streamed the reception, with major Fatah officials present to welcome him.

“Thank you, for you have brought us honor,” Fatah Central Committee member Sabri Saidam told Fasfous, in front of a crowd of several hundred.

Fasfous had protested his detention by Israel without charge through his hunger strike. He was subsequently joined by five other Palestinians who refused food for weeks, eventually being hospitalized in Israel. Five out of the six hunger strikers, including Fasfous, reached deals with Israel that their detention would not be renewed.

The Shin Bet security services did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to the allegations against Fasfous.

Fasfous and the others were held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which means he was not been formally charged with a crime. Israel says the controversial procedure is necessary to prevent terror attacks when it has intelligence that cannot be publicly revealed in court.

Administrative detention is legal under international law in extreme circumstances. But Palestinians and their advocates contend that Israel abuses the tool, making widespread use of it when there is no imminent threat to public order.

After his protest passed the 90-day mark, the International Committee for the Red Cross warned that Fasfous’s deteriorating medical condition could pose a serious risk to his long-term health.

In mid-October, Robert Paterson, ICRC health delegate, said: “We are concerned about potentially irreversible consequences of such prolonged hunger strike[s] to their health and life.” Fasfous’s strike continued for another month before he was informed that Israel would not renew his detention.

Some 493 Palestinian prisoners are in administrative detention in Israeli jails, according to data provided by Israeli authorities to the left-wing HaMoked rights group. They make up around 11 percent of all Palestinians jailed or detained by Israel for security offenses.

Hunger-striking is a common protest method used by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. In some cases, Palestinians will strike on an individual basis in an attempt to change the conditions of their detention; the Israeli prison system has also seen mass hunger strikes involving thousands of detainees.

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