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Israeli court confirms administrative detention of hunger-striking Balboul brothers

Aug. 7, 2016 6:52 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 10, 2016 2:20 P.M.)
Sanaa Balboul holds up a t-shirt of her sons' faces at a Bethlehem sit-in for Palestinian prisoners on Aug. 2, 2016. The shirt reads: "If you live, live free." (MaanImages/Jaclynn Ashly, File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- An Israeli military court at the Ofer detention center near Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank on Sunday decided to confirm the administrative detention sentence of Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, two brothers from Bethlehem who have been on hunger strike since the beginning of July.

According to a statement from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, the court rejected an appeal by the committee’s lawyers to reduce the sentence.

Muhammad, a dentist, was sentenced to six months of administrative detention, while Mahmoud, a Master’s student at al-Quds University, was sentenced to five months.

Mahmoud Balboul has been on hunger-strike since July 5, and Muhammad since July 7.

Mahmoud Balboul has been suffering from severe pains in his chest and has had difficulty breathing, the statement said. “From time to time, he falls to the ground with signs of fatigue, and has lost a noticeable portion of his weight.”

Reports emerged on Wednesday that the Israeli military court had postponed the court hearing.

A lawyer told Ma’an at the time that Muhammad Balboul, who is also being treated in Ramla prison hospital, told him that Israel Prison Service (IPS) doctors were not providing his brother Mahmoud with proper medical care, and that prison authorities assaulted Mahmoud in the hospital before transferring him back to Ofer prison.

Muhammad Balboul added that he has been suffering from constant dizziness, muscle stiffness, exhaustion, and insomnia, while Mahmoud suffered from issues in his pelvic bones, acidity caused by chronic vomiting, and has not able to speak as well.

Muhammad and Mahmoud al-Balboul were detained on June 9 from Bethlehem, just two months after their 14-year-old sister, Nuran, was detained after attempting to cross Israel’s 300 Checkpoint between northern Bethlehem and Jerusalem for allegedly possessing a knife, an accusation that locals denied.

Nuran was released from prison on July 12 after spending three months in prison.

The three are children of Ahmad al-Balboul, a prominent leader in Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who was shot dead along with three other Palestinians by undercover Israeli forces in March 2008.

The two brothers have joined several other Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike in an attempt to hold Israel accountable for its arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinians.

According to Palestinians, Israel uses its policy of administrative detention -- internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence -- to detain family members of Palestinian political leaders, in an extension of several policies that rights groups have deemed “collective punishment” aimed at disrupting family life for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

More than 80 Palestinian prisoners continued their open hunger strikes in solidarity with the Balbouls and Bilal Kayid, the highest profile hunger striker since Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq came near death during a 94-day hunger strike before he was finally released in May.

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