Human rights groups concerned about life of Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike


Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups have expressed their concern over the critical condition of Palestinian prisoner, Maher al-Akhras, who is on a hunger strike for nearly 80 days.

The 49-year-old Palestinian prisoner is now in an Israeli hospital suffering from heart pain and convulsions and has slipped occasionally into a coma, his wife said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

According to his family, he has been drinking water but refusing solid food since he was moved to the hospital three weeks ago.

Akhras was detained on July 27 and was held under the administrative detention order, with no charge. This has led him to start a hunger strike in an attempt to seek justice against the unfair detention.

Israel’s Shin Bet spy service claimed that Akhras, a resident of the occupied northern West Bank city of Jenin, was arrested after it received information that he was an operative of the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad resistance group, but his wife rejected the allegation.

Akhras’ wife Taghreed said he knows that his life is in danger but believes that “this is the only way he can achieve justice.”

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday refused to order the immediate release of the Palestinian prisoner.

The Islamic Jihad’s Muhjat al-Quds Foundation for Prisoners said in a press statement that the Israeli Supreme Court had contented itself with issuing a recommendation to release Akhras on November 26th despite calls for his immediate emancipation due to his deteriorating health conditions.

Taghreed told Reuters at the hospital that Akhras would continue the hunger strike.

She said her husband is too weak to leave his bed and was not handcuffed in the hospital while there were no guards visible near his room.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights called on international rights groups to intervene immediately to “save the life of Akhras before it is too late.”

The Israeli advocacy group B’Tselem also said in a statement, “The responsibility for what happens next lies with those who can prevent his further deterioration and even death.”

The group, which is monitoring the case, added, “They can still stop this from happening.”

Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Commission of Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees, told the Arabic-language Voice of Palestine radio station on Sunday that Akhras’ health condition has entered the stage of extreme danger.

Last week, the Commission of Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees said Akhras would only end his strike if he was released immediately.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are under administrative detention, in which Israel keeps the detainees for up to six months, a period which can be extended an infinite number of times. Women and minors are among these detainees.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes in an attempt to express their outrage at the detention. Palestinians hold Israeli authorities fully responsible for any deterioration of the circumstances in jails.

More than 7,000 Palestinians are reportedly held in Israeli jails.

In May 2019, a study revealed that Israel had arrested some 16,500 Palestinian children since the outbreak of the Second Intifada (uprising) in late-2000.

In recent months and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, several Palestinian prisoners have been infected in an Israeli detention center amid mounting concerns about medical negligence by Israeli authorities.

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