Palestinians rally in West Bank as six continue hunger strike in Israeli prisons

Palestinians rally in West Bank as six continue hunger strike in Israeli prisons
The health conditions of six Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have deteriorated severely, as Israeli authorities continues their detention without disclosing charges.
4 min read
West Bank
05 November, 2021
The longest hunger striker, Kayed Fasfus, has reached 113 days without food [Getty]

Palestinians rallied in several West Bank cities on Wednesday in support of six prisoners on hunger strike, demanding the end of their administrative detention. The detainees had been transferred to medical facilities after they went on hunger strike.

Under the administrative detention regime, Israeli military authorities can issue orders that result in the incarceration of Palestinians from the West Bank for up to 6 months. Each detention order can be renewed indefinitely.  

In Nablus, Palestinians gathered at the local offices of the International Red Cross Committee and staged a sit-in, raising the pictures of Palestinian hunger strikers. Students from Birzeit University, who had been organising solidarity activities in the campus since Monday, also took part in the protest. Late on Wednesday, The New Arab witnessed clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli forces near the Beit El checkpoint at Ramallah’s Northern entrance.

Reinstated detentions

Protests in support of the six detainees have been on the rise since last Friday, when Israeli authorities decided to reinstate the administrative detention of one of the hunger strikers, 32-year-old Kayed Fasfus. Ehteram Ghazawnah, head of the documentation unit at the Palestinian Addameer prisoner support association, told The New Arab that “the administrative detention order against Fasfus had been frozen, meaning that he was still a detainee but on hold, temporarily not in detention”.

Ghazawnah explained that the “Israeli supreme court does this to shy away from being held responsible for the detainees' health condition at the hospital. The reinstatement of the detention order means that he is actively a detainee again, and the Israeli military court can therefore renew his detention order for up to six months”. 

In the past, the Israeli military prosecution has usually reached compromises with hunger strikers that have prompted them to end their action in desperate health conditions. The cases of some of these six hunger strikers have been however exceptionally complicated as they have dragged along for a very long time.

Khaled Fasfus, Kayed’s brother, told The New Arab that “a group of medics and lawyers were supposed to visit Kayed at the Israeli Barzilai clinic and produce a report on his health condition, which would have helped in advancing the case for his release.” According to Khaled Fasfus, “the reinstatement of the detention order means that he can no longer receive visits. I’m sure that they did that to prevent the medics and lawyers from visiting him.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli military prosecution informed Jawad Bulos, the lawyer representing all six hunger strikers, of its intention to reinstate the detention order of another detainee on hunger strike, 24-year-old university student Miqdad Qawasmeh. His order had been ‘on freeze’ since his transfer to the Israeli Kaplan clinic, following a serious deterioration of his condition weeks before.

"Imminent threat of life"

Miqdad Qawasmeh was reportedly subjected to forced treatment two weeks ago, when Israeli medics were accused of injecting nutrients into his body through IV drip against his will. Kayed Fasfus and Miqdad Qawasmeh are the two longest hunger strikers, with Fasfus reaching 113 days without food and Qawasmeh 106 days.

According to the Addameer association, whose lawyers have been able to visit hunger strikers several times, Fasfus and Qawasmeh are facing “an imminent threat of life”, with symptoms including “constant pain, extreme vitamin deficiency, abnormally low heart rates, difficulties speaking and minimal mobility”.

39-year-old Abu Hawash, a father of five who is on his 80th day without food, reportedly suffers from similar symptoms. His brother Imad Abu Hawash told The New Arab that, according to Hisham’s lawyer, he neither can speak properly nor move around unassisted, and that he repeatedly vomits blood and bodily matter. The Israeli court reportedly ruled against transferring him to a civil hospital unless he suffers a heart attack. “They literally want to wait for Hisham to die,” exclaimed Imad.

Death report 'at any time'

“We have appealed against his administrative detention several times and our appeal has been overruled. In one of the court hearings the prosecution claimed they had new secret, security-sensitive information to support the renewal of his detention order, although he had been in prison for months and over seventy days on hunger strike,” he added. “We have exhausted all legal means to save him. We expect his death report at any time.”

In addition to Kayed Fasfus, Miqdad Qawasmeh and Hisham Abu Hawash, three more Palestinians are currently on hunger strike protesting their continuous administrative detention: 34-year-old and father of one Alaa al Aaraj, on hunger strike for 89 days, 28-year-old Ayyad Hraimi (48 days), and 45-year-old Louay Al Ashqar (25 days).

According to the Addameer association, there are currently around 500 Palestinians held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons.