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ICRC expresses worry over deteriorating health of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners

Nov. 18, 2016 12:39 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 22, 2016 10:25 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed worry on Friday over the deteriorating health of two Palestinian hunger strikers, both of whom have now been on strike for more than 50 days in protest of being sentenced without charge or trial in Israeli prison.

An ICRC doctor who has regularly visited Anas Shadid, 20, and Ahmad Abu Farah, 29, who have been on hunger strike for 55 and 56 days respectively, called on the hunger strikers, their representatives, and authorities to “find a solution before the detainees lose their lives or develop irreversible damages to their health.”

The ICRC regularly visits Palestinian hunger strikers in order to confirm they are being treated in accordance with international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Shadid and Abu Farah, both from the village of Surif in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, were being held solitary confinement in Israel’s Megiddo prison. They were both detained on Aug. 1 and have been on hunger strike since Sept. 24 and Sept. 23, respectively, in protest of being placed under administrative detention -- an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence.

Last week, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs released a statement detailing the severe medical condition of Shadid, reporting that the young hunger striker had lost his ability to walk, move, and talk “unless with great difficulty,” while also suffering from memory loss. The statement also warned of the possibilities of "sudden paralysis."

“He is suffering from constant headaches and dizziness, weakness in his heart, asthma, vision difficulties, and severe pains in the eyes, chest, and stomach,” the statement read.

Shadid is currently being treated at the Assaf HaRofeh Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel.

At the end of October, it was reported that Abu Farah was being treated at Israel’s Ramla prison hospital after his condition severely deteriorated.

Meanwhile, Arabic media outlet Mohja Al-Quds reported that Abu Farah’s condition was dangerous, and that the hunger striker has suffered from pain in his chest and abdomen, while also experiencing blurred vision and difficulty speaking.

Scores of Palestinian prisoners have launched hunger strikes in the past year to protest 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.

In recent months, when three Palestinian hunger strikers -- Malik al-Qadi, and Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul -- faced near death after refusing food for 68, 77, and 79 days, respectively, the ICRC became a target of protests over what critics said was the group's inability to act on the behalf of Palestinian hunger strikers.

Palestinians protested and organized sit-ins outside ICRC offices to demand the organization take practical steps to address the rising fears that the hunger strikes would soon face death if Israeli authorities continued their refusal to release them from administrative detention.

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 August, 700 of whom were being held in administrative detention.

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