Maher al-Akhras, a 49-year-old Palestinian administrative detainee, ended his 104-day hunger strike on Saturday, November 7, following an agreement with Israeli prison authorities guaranteeing his freedom. Akhras, who has been in administrative detention since July, will be released on November 26. Israeli authorities agreed to not extend his administrative detention after that date.
Akhras will continue to remain in the Kaplan Hospital in Israel as his health has significantly deteriorated. His wife Taghrid al-Akhras told reporters that his health condition continues to be grave and that he is now going through a medical check-up before he begins eating. Akhras lost nearly 40 kg and suffered from severe body cramps, acute headaches, and pain in the chest during his hunger strike. He also experienced extreme fatigue and loss of consciousness.
Akhras is from the town of Silat al-Dahr, north of the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank and was working as a dairy farmer. The father of six was arrested and placed in administrative detention by the Israeli domestic security agency Shin Bet. Akhras was accused of being an active member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant organization, a charge that Akhras has always denied, saying that he is not involved in any political or security-related activity.
Israeli security agencies have arrested Akhras multiple times since 1989 on similar accusations. He has been in jail for terms ranging from seven months to two years. He has also been held under Israel’s policy of administrative detention on two occasions before – in 2009 and 2018. Under this system, Israeli authorities can detain Palestinians in prison for an indefinite number of renewable terms time ranging from three-six months without charge or trial. The detention is based on secret evidence that the Israeli authorities withhold from even the family members and lawyers of the detainees. The policy is in violation of international law and has been widely condemned by human rights organizations.
According to Israeli human rights organizations, Israel is currently holding close to 470 Palestinians under the administrative detention policy. The total number of Palestinians currently in Israeli prisons is approximately 5,700. Two of the administrative detainees are under the age of 18. Activists and human rights groups have long accused Israel of continuing to deliberately use this policy in order to inflict psychological torture on the detainees by keeping them in the dark about the charges against them, as well heightening uncertainty about the trial and release prcedure. The policy also serves as a form of collective punishment for Israel to subjugate and oppress the Palestinians living under its brutal military occupation.