Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh ended a hunger strike lasting more than 170 days on Wednesday after Israel agreed to his release in October, his lawyer and the PLO’s commission for prisoners affairs have said.
Awawdeh, 40, launched the hunger strike shortly after his arrest in December 2021 in protest of being held in Israel without charge or trial, a practice known as “administrative detention”.
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Until he is discharged on October 2, Awawdeh will remain in hospital for treatment, his lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, told the Reuters news agency.
Haddad said Awawdeh has subsisted only on water for months and warned last week that he could “die at any moment” due to his deteriorating health.
The prisoners’ commission also confirmed Awawdeh would remain in hospital until he “completely recovers”, adding that his condition requires “long-term care”.
Awawdeh is one of several Palestinian detainees who have gone on prolonged hunger strikes over the years in protest against the so-called “administrative detention”.
Administrative detainees are arrested on “secret evidence”, unaware of the accusations against them, and are not allowed to defend themselves in court. They are usually held for renewable six-month periods that often lead to years in detention.
While Israel has claimed the procedure allows authorities to hold “suspects” while continuing to gather evidence, critics and rights groups have said the system is widely abused and denies the “suspects” due process.
‘You are a great nation’
Palestinian fighters from the Islamic Jihad had demanded Awawdeh’s release as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ending three days of attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip by Israeli forces earlier this month. The group did not identify him as a member.
The Israeli attacks killed 49 people in Gaza, including 17 children.
No comment was immediately available from the Israeli military, defence ministry or prison service.
Dawoud Shehab, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesperson, hailed the agreement as an achievement, which he said came following weeks of effort.
“We are grateful for the big effort Egypt has exerted to secure the freedom of brother Awawdeh,” Shehab told Reuters.
Haddad, Awawdeh’s lawyer, said this week that her client weighs 37 kilograms [around 80 pounds] and is suffering from neurological damage. He took vitamins during two weeks in June when he thought his case was being resolved but has otherwise only had water since the strike began in March, his family says.
In a video circulating on social media, Awawdeh, who appeared frail and bony and kept losing his breath as he spoke from a hospital bed, said he will remain hospitalised until he regains his health and can walk again.
In another video shared by his lawyer, the father of four thanked those who stood by him before ending his hunger strike with a cup of tea.
“Thank you for your support,” he said. “You are a great nation. You are a great nation.”
Israel is currently holding some 4,450 Palestinian prisoners. Approximately 670 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention, a number that jumped in March as Israel began near-nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank.
Of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, 175 are children and 27 are women, according to the latest figures published by prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
Some of the most severe prison policies to which Palestinians are subjected include medical neglect.
Many Palestinians view all prisoners who are in detention as political prisoners because of the Israeli military occupation and their resistance to it.