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Hunger striker Malik al-Qadi in critical condition as 100 prisoners join solidarity strike

Sept. 15, 2016 1:55 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 26, 2016 8:48 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Comatose Palestinian prisoner Malik al-Qadi, who has been on hunger strike for 61 days in protest of his administrative detention -- internment without charge or trial -- was reported to be in critical condition on Thursday, as at least 100 Palestinian prisoners joined a mass hunger strike in support of al-Qadi and the hunger-striking Balboul brothers.

Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs head Issa Qaraqe said in a statement that al-Qadi was the Palestinian hunger striking prisoner in the most critical condition since 2011, adding that al-Qadi has been “fighting death” at the Wolfson Medical Center, as he has remained in a coma for five days, while suffering from a severe lung infection, low heart rate, urinary system complications, puffiness around the eyes, and hearing loss.

Qaraqe said that al-Qadi has remained in the intensive care unit and has not responded to treatment. Israeli prison officials have reportedly been forcing treatment on al-Qadi in order to get him out of his coma, despite al-Qadi previously announcing his refusal to be treated during his strike regardless of his health condition.

Meanwhile, according to a statement issued by the committee, the number of Palestinian prisoners on a mass hunger strike launched Wednesday by 50 Fatah and Islamic Jihad-affiliated prisoners in solidarity with al-Qadi and the hunger-striking Balboul brothers has doubled, with at least 100 prisoners now participating in the strike.

The committee said in a statement that the solidarity hunger strike was in its first phase of solidarity actions to support the hunger strikers, adding that it would escalate if Israel continued its “carelessness,” as authorities have continued to refuse to completely release al-Qadi and the Balbouls from administrative detention despite their worsening health.

The solidarity hunger strikes were launched by groups of prisoners in the Ofer, Negev, Nafha, and Ramon prisons, and would continue in other Israeli prisons, the committee added.

The committee highlighted that Israel was fully responsible for the lives of al-Qadi and Balboul brothers.

Al-Qadi, a journalism and media student at al-Quds University, was detained on May 23 and had previously spent four months in Israeli custody after being detained in December 2015.

On Saturday, al-Qadi’s mother was urgently summoned to the Wolfson Medical Center, where al-Qadi was reported to have slipped into a coma.

Last week, an Israeli court temporarily suspended al-Qadi’s administrative detention, just one day following the suspension of the Balboul brothers’ detentions. In all three cases, the courts said the sentences would be suspended until their health conditions improved.

However, all three prisoners have steadfastly committed to their hunger strikes until they are completely released from administrative detention.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected an appeal submitted by al-Qadi’s lawyers to release al-Qadi from administrative detention due to his critical health condition.

Sanaa Balboul, Muhammad and Mahmoud's mother, was able to visit her sons on Sunday for the first time since they were taken by Israeli soldiers after a raid on their home on June 9, shortly before their younger sister Nuran, 16, was released after spending four months in Israeli prison.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals based on undisclosed evidence, has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, students, and journalists. Sanaa Balboul told Ma'an she believed her children were targeted as a result of her late husband's political activities in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. He was shot dead by undercover Israeli forces in 2008.

Although Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

According to Addameer, as of August, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 700 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

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