Palestinian administrative detainee on ‘verge of death’ as his hunger strike nears 90 days

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says more than 350 Palestinians are currently being held under the illegal colonial-era policy of administrative detention adopted by the state of Israel

October 16, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Palestinian detainee hunger strike
Demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian  administrative detainee Maher Akhras in Ramallah. (Photo: Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network/Twitter)

The health of Palestinian administrative detainee Maher Akhras has significantly deteriorated as he completed 82 days of hunger strike on October 16, Thursday. Akhras launched his hunger strike following his arrest at the end of July to protest against his illegal administrative detention by the Israeli authorities, demanding that they revoke the administrative detention order against him. Palestinian activists and political leaders, as well as various Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, have expressed concern regarding Akhras’ health. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem on Tuesday said that Akhras is on the “verge of death”.

News of Akhras’ deteriorating health comes as the Israeli high court, on Monday, rejected an emergency petition by his lawyer asking for his release. The court instead offered not to extend his administrative detention beyond the current specified duration on the condition that he immediately end his hunger strike. Akhras rejected the court’s offer and in a pre-recorded video message from his hospital bed at the Kaplan Medical Center said that his hunger strike aims for “either freedom for my family and my children or my killing in the name of their false justice.” 

Akhras’ lawyer Ahlam Haddad said that her client is in imminent danger of sudden death at any moment. She had stated in the petition before the court that Akhras had suffered “irreversible damage” and should be released without further delay.

 Meanwhile, several protest demonstrations were organized across the occupied Palestinian territories over the last couple of days. On October 14, hundreds of Palestinians, including family members of those killed or imprisoned by the state of Israel, staged a protest rally in Manara square in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, calling for Akhras’ immediate and unconditional release. In the besieged Gaza strip, Palestinians launched an open-ended protest in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) building to express solidarity with Akhras and demand his release.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights based in Gaza appealed to international human rights organizations to swiftly intervene in the matter and obtain Akhras’ release. On October 13, close to 30 Palestinian detainees in Ofer jail in Israel launched hunger strikes in protest of Akhras’ illegal administrative detention and to express their solidarity.

 Political leaders including Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Arab members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), Yousef Jabareen and Dr. Ahmad Tibi, also called for Akhras’ release. A spokesperson for Gaza-based Palestinian resistance group based Hamas, Fawzi Barhoum stated, “we are ready for any scenario … We want the freedom and safety of the prisoner Akhras. Hamas has a strong presence in the field and it will participate in any resistance act on the ground so Maher enjoys freedom.” He added that Hamas has sent a strong message to Israel demanding Akhras’ release.