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Palestinian hunger strikers slip into coma as Israeli authorities threaten force feeding

Nov. 26, 2016 5:35 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 27, 2016 1:00 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities at Israel's Assaf Harofeh hospital, where two hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners are being held, have threatened to force feed the prisoners who have recently slipped into a coma, according to a statement released Saturday by the head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs.

Issa Qaraqe said that Israeli authorities have threatened to force treatment on Anas Shadid, 20, and Ahmad Abu Farah, 29, who have been on hunger strike since Sept. 24 and 23, respectively, in an attempt to coerce them out of their hunger strikes, adding that both had slipped into a coma, and have partially or completely lost their ability to breath, speak, drink, and hear.

The prisoners declared their hunger strikes in September after being sentenced to administrative detention -- an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence that even a detainee's lawyer is barred from viewing.

In September, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that a law that permits force feeding hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners was constitutional, rejecting petitions filed last year by the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and several human rights groups, which argued that the law contravened medical laws and ethics regarding patients’ rights.

Qaraqe also reported that the hunger strikers have been treated in a “humiliating way” by Israeli guards at the hospital.

Meanwhile, Shadid has been transferred to emergency care due to the rapid worsening of his health, which doctors have said could be “life threatening,” according to Qaraqe.

Qaraqe held the Israeli government responsible in the statement for the lives of the hunger strikers and any severe deterioration of their healths, while also calling upon the international community to intervene to help save the lives of the hunger strikers.

Palestinian leadership have been making calls to international leaders in an attempt to save the hunger strikers, Qaraqe said, while urging doctors from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to ensure their presence at the hospitals to monitor the deteriorating health conditions of the prisoners and their treatment by Israeli guards and doctors.

An Israeli court temporarily suspended the prisoners’ detention orders on Nov. 18 due to the deteriorating health of the hunger strikers, according to Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun.

On Friday, the lawyer for hunger-striking prisoners filed an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding that the court transfer the hunger strikers to the Ramallah governmental hospital.

Another Palestinian held in administrative detention, Ammar Ibrahim Hamour, declared an open hunger strike on Monday. Israeli authorities have issued two six-month administrative detention orders against Hamour since he was initially detained by Israeli forces.

Meanwhile, Nour al-Din Amar, 30, has been on hunger strike for around 25 days after launching his strike at the beginning of November in protest of serving more than three years in solitary confinement.

Scores of Palestinian prisoners have launched hunger strikes in the past year to protest various issues, most notably administrative detention. The most prominent hunger strikers included Muhammad al-Qiq, Bilal Kayid, and brothers Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul.

Although Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals based on undisclosed evidence, 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.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.

According to Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons as of October, 720 of whom were being held in administrative detention.

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