Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Calls are growing for Israel to immediately release a Palestinian prisoner suffering from cancer who is in a critical condition and believed to be facing death.
Nasser Abu Hmaid’s family and prisoner groups said late last week that the 49-year-old was facing “his last days” based on an Israeli medical report they received from the Assaf Harofeh hospital near Tel Aviv, which recommended his immediate release from prison.
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Israeli prison authorities transferred Abu Hmaid from the hospital back to Ramla prison clinic, some seven kilometres away, on Thursday, after the hospital said there was nothing more it could do.
Protests calling for the prisoner’s release have been held in several cities across the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, as well as in front of Ramla prison.
“Everyone who can help him be released in his last days is responsible,” his brother, Naji Abu Hmaid, told Al Jazeera Arabic on Friday, adding that the family were asking for his immediate release so that he can die by their side.
“How can I comfort my brother who is dying from behind the glass, and see my mother deprived of embracing him for the last time?” asked Naji.
Abu Hmaid hails from the al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. He has been imprisoned since 2002 and was sentenced to life after an Israeli court found him guilty of participating in attacks during the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.
Abu Hmaid was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2021 after Israeli authorities delayed the provision of medical examinations and treatment, according to prisoner groups.
He was “suffering from pain for a long period of time before they agreed to do medical tests on him”, Amany Sarahneh, spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners Society, told Al Jazeera.
“By August the chest pain had become very intense, which is when they transferred him for tests and they found the cancer. It’s clear that the disease was discovered at a late stage,” she added, noting that it spread quickly within just one year.
“Nasser was exposed to a slow death operation. Every time Nasser needed to be sent to hospital the prison administration would postpone. His fellow prisoners would protest to pressure authorities to transfer him,” she continued.
“This is part of a systematic policy of medical negligence and delays in providing treatment, which all the prisoners are exposed to, not just Nasser,” said Sarahneh, who mentioned other prisoners who had similar experiences and had recently died in Israeli custody, such as Sami Umour, Kamal Abu Waer and Hussein Masalmah.
Abu Hmaid’s health severely deteriorated at the end of last year, and he was transferred to Barzilai hospital, where he entered into a coma.
He was then transferred to Ramla prison clinic where he began chemotherapy treatment for several months, before it was stopped when the hospital said it would no longer have any impact.
“Nasser has suffered throughout his life. He was ‘wanted’ for a long time, and he was shot at directly by Israeli forces and had serious injuries. He is 49, and he has spent over 30 years of his life in prison,” said Sarahneh.
The Palestinian Prisoners Society has said that it is filing an appeal for Abu Hmaid’s immediate release with an Israeli medical committee for prisoners.
“Israel is insisting on its crime against prisoner Nasser Abu Hmaid, and his release must take place with international intervention,” Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Authority’s Commission for Detainees Affairs, said on Tuesday.
In a statement, he demanded that Israel conduct routine medical examinations for Palestinian prisoners every six months.
On Friday, Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, renewed its offer to Israel to negotiate the release of Israelis held in Gaza in exchange for the release of sick and elderly Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
There are now approximately 4,450 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian prisoners groups.
This figure includes 600 prisoners who are ill with various diseases and require treatment, as well as 23 who suffer from cancer.
Meanwhile, about 743 prisoners are held under “administrative detention”, a policy that allows Israel to hold detainees without charge or trial.