Israeli Supreme Court rejects hunger striker’s petition

Khalil Awawdeh has been on a hunger strike for several months now (Mahmoud Illean - AP)

AP  /  August 30, 2022

JERUSALEM – Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition for the release of a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for nearly six months and whose lawyer says is in danger of “sudden death.”

Khalil Awawdeh is protesting being held by Israel in what’s known as administrative detention, a practice in which detainees suspected of militant activities are imprisoned for months or years without charge or trial.

In recent pictures he resembles a human skeleton, his skin tightly stretched over a bony frame.

Israel says administrative detention is needed to keep dangerous militants off the streets without revealing sensitive intelligence. The Palestinians and rights groups say it denies detainees the basic right of due process.

Awawdeh’s lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, says Israel accuses him of being a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, an allegation he denies. Islamic Jihad demanded his release as part of a cease-fire that ended a flare-up of violence in Gaza earlier this month, but did not identify him as a member.

Haddad says the 40-year-old Awawdeh 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.

“He is in a stage between life and death,” Haddad said. “According to the medical literature, he is in a danger of a sudden death.”

In its ruling, the court said it “hopes that the petitioner will come to his senses and stop the hunger strike,” adding that it was confident he would receive the necessary medical care.

Israel has officially suspended his arrest, but he remains in custody at an Israeli hospital.

Several Palestinians have gone on prolonged hunger strike 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 some 4,400 Palestinian prisoners, including militants who have carried out deadly attacks, as well as people arrested at protests or for throwing stones. The Palestinians view all of them as political prisoners held for resisting Israel’s 55-year military occupation of territories the Palestinians want for a future state.

Around 670 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention. The number has jumped since March, as Israel has carried out near-nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank following a series of deadly attacks against Israelis.