Palestinian prisoner Ghadanfar Abu Atwan has been released after 65 days of hunger strike. 28-year-old Atwan had launched his hunger strike while being held in the Israeli Ramon prison on May 5 following the extension of his previous six-month administrative detention order.
Administrative detention orders allow Israeli authorities to detain Palestinians and keep them in their custody without charge or trial and without presenting any evidence to justify their detention.
A spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club (PPC) Amjad al-Najjar yesterday in a statement said that Atwan will be released from the Israeli Kaplan Medical Center in the “coming hours” and transferred to a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah. He had been transferred to the Israeli hospital following an alarming deterioration in his health. The decline in his health was attributed to long periods of time in which the prisoner also stopped drinking water or fluids with salt, sugar or vitamins. He had also been subject to cruel and inhumane treatment in the prison by the Israeli authorities, such as repeated instances of brutal physical assaults and torture which caused multiple injuries, being placed in solitary confinement for two straight weeks, causing extreme mental and emotional trauma and distress. The PPC also reported that the prison authorities had sprayed Atwan with an unknown substance which made it difficult for him to breathe.
Abu Atwan’s lawyer, Jawad Boulos, also spoke about the severe decline in his client’s death, describing it as him “clinging to life”. News reports quoting medical records dated July 7 stated that Atwan was “noticeably weak, almost unable to speak” and had lost the ability to move his lower limbs. Doctors had warned that Atwan’s rapidly declining condition could lead to even more serious or life-threatening possibilities such as paralysis, chronic ailments, permanent disability or even sudden and premature death. Atwan’s rapidly declining health led to the Israeli Supreme Court suspending the administrative detention order against him about two weeks ago but by then Atwan was already “very sick and captive in the hospital”, according to his lawyer. Atwan’s sister, Benazeer along with his lawyer have confirmed that he intends to continue his hunger strike until he is reunited with his family and released from Israeli custody.
According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are currently at least 520 Palestinians being held in Israeli under the extrajudicial administrative detention policy dating back to British colonial occupation Palestine. Addameer also states that a staggering 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and held in prison by the state of Israel since the Israeli occupation of West Bank and East Jerusalem began in 1967. Cases of Palestinians being slapped with administrative detention orders against them have recorded a spike since May 2021, with more than 200 administrative detention orders issued against Palestinians since then.
Abu Atwan himself has already been subjected to administrative detention. The first time was roughly 10 years ago. In total he has already spent five non-consecutive years in administrative detention, including the current one. Prior to that, he also served a two-year prison sentence after being convicted by an Israeli military court. International human rights organizations and multiple foreign governments have regularly called upon Israel to do away with the illegal, inhumane policy of administrative detention but until now those efforts have gone in vain.
Palestinian administrative detainees over the years have launched hundreds of hunger strikes to protest against their illegal detention and to demand their release. Recently, two other prisoners, Jamal al-Taweel and Khader Adnan, had also launched hunger strikes against their illegal detention and both had completed around three weeks of being on strike. Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli custody regularly use hunger strikes as a way to protest their illegal detention and fight for their rights. It is often seen as the only option to make their demands heard and put pressure on the biased, discriminatory Israeli legal system.