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Prisoner Mahmoud Balboul suffering from severe chest pains on 68th day without food

Sept. 10, 2016 8:34 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 14, 2016 3:44 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Balboul, who entered his 68th day without food on Saturday, has been suffering from severe chest pains, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said Saturday.

Balboul is currently being held at the Assaf HaRofeh Hospital and has suffered from a critical deterioration in his health, a statement from the committee said.

He and his brother Mohammad Balboul both declared hunger strikes on July 4 and 7 respectively, in protest of being held without charge or trial under Israel's controversial policy of administrative detention.

Lawyers of the committee Iyad Misk and Tareq Barghouth visited Mahmoud on Saturday, reporting that Balboul has lost more than 40 kilograms and is having difficulties speaking.

Balboul told the lawyers that he was assaulted by Israeli prison authorities at the al-Ramla Hospital before he and his brother’s detention sentences were suspended by an Israeli court in an attempt to pressure them to end their strikes. Their lawyers have rejected the ruling, and the hunger strikes have continued.

According to the lawyers, prison authorities also provoked Mahmoud by eating in front of him and putting food near his mouth and nose, in addition to attempting to convince him that Muhammad ended his hunger strike.

Mahmoud and Muhammad are among the three remaining Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli custody, after a mass movement spread across Israel’s prisons over recent months. At its peak, more than a hundred prisoners had declared temporary strikes in solidarity with those who had declared open-ended strikes.

The third hunger-striking prisoner Malik al-Qadi entered his 56th day without food on Saturday, with reports emerging that he has fallen into a coma and could die at any moment.

On Friday, 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 improve.

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

Mahmoud and Muhammad Balboul were permitted to speak with their family over the phone on Wednesday 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.

Videos circulated throughout social media
showing the brothers speaking with their mother Sanaa and Nuran on the phone, with Mahmoud visibly exhausted and gaunt, while Muhammad was shown to be suffering from temporary blindness. The brothers told their bereaved mother and sister that they would continue their strike until Israel releases them.

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

Sanaa told Ma'an she believes her children are being targeted as a result of her late husband's political activities with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. He was shot dead by undercover Israeli forces in 2008.

However, at other times, it has remained a mystery as to why some Palestinians are detained by Israeli forces who have not committed a crime, participated in political activities, nor have relations to any Palestinian political leader. As detainees and their lawyers are barred from viewing evidence related to the case, families are left to wonder what reasons could be behind the imprisonment of their children.

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.
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