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Abbas meets with family of hunger-striking brothers imprisoned by Israel

Sept. 9, 2016 12:45 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 16, 2016 12:09 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday received the mother and sister of hunger-striking prisoners Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, brothers who have been on a hunger strike for almost 70 days.

Their mother Sanaa Balboul and 15-year-old sister Nuran described the critical health conditions of Muhammad and Mahmoud to Abbas, and the oppressive measures carried out against them by Israeli authorities.

Mahmoud and Muhammad began their hunger strikes on July 4 and 7 respectively, in protest of being placed in administrative detention -- Israel’s policy of internment without trial or charge based on undisclosed evidence.

The brothers were detained on June 9 shortly before Nuran was released after spending three months in Israeli prison.

On Wednesday, the Israeli Supreme Court Wednesday ordered a temporary suspension of the hunger striking brothers’ administrative detention until their health conditions improved -- a ruling their lawyers rejected, insisting on their immediate and full release.

Abbas told Sanaa and Nuran that he was making regional and international calls to pressure the Israeli government to release the Balboul brothers and save their lives, adding that the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners’ held by Israel is the most important cause for the Palestinian people and their leadership.

The hunger strikers’ mother told Palestinian state-run Wafa News Agency in an interview following the meeting that she was honored to meet Abbas and that he showed major interest to follow up on the issue and “promised positive results soon to release my sons.”

Nuran said her brothers requested that she and her mother call upon Abbas to secure their release in time for the coming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha next week.

Nuran, Mohammed, and Mahmoud, were all detained in June, forcing Sanaa to spend the holiest month of the year alone in her home in Bethlehem, while all three of her children were locked inside Israeli prisons.

Her husband, Ahmad Balboul -- the leader of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the group -- was killed by undercover Israeli forces in 2008.

The hunger strikers have experienced deteriorating health, as both brothers were rushed to the intensive care unit of two Israeli hospitals within a few days of each other as their health conditions took a turn for the worst.

Ahmed Tibi, member of the Arab Joint List of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, visited the two brothers in prison, and released a video showing that Mohammad had lost his eyesight as a result of his hunger strike.

During Tibi's visit with Mahmoud, Mahmoud spoke with his mother on the phone, telling her he is ongoing with his strike “until freedom or death.”

“I will remain steadfast, my will is strong,” he told his mother while both of them cried together on the phone, “I miss you so much, I miss everybody, we are the sons of Ahmad, we are strong and determined to remain strong.”

Israel’s policy of administrative detention, which allows Israel to detain someone without trial or charge, is almost exclusively used against Palestinians and has been widely criticized by rights group which have accused Israel of using the policy to erode Palestinian political and social life by detaining scores of Palestinians without proof of wrongdoing.

According to Addameer, as of July, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 750 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

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