Red Cross: Life of Hunger-striking Palestinian at 'Immediate Risk'

Lawyer of Mohammed Allaan says Israeli army to seek court order to force feed him; Allaan's mother begins own hunger strike.

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Palestinian protesters show solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in Jerusallem. June 10, 2014.
Palestinian protesters show solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in Jerusallem. June 10, 2014.Credit: Reuters

A Palestinian prisoner in Israeli administrative detention who has been on a hunger strike for 50 days is at risk of dying, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday.

According to Palestinian sources, the Israeli military prosecutor will request that 31-year-old Mohammed Allaan, currently hospitalized in Soroka Medical Center, Be’er Sheva, be force fed, under a law passed by the Knesset at the end of July.

Allaan, a lawyer by profession from the village of Einabus, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, was first arrested in November, 2014 under Israel's policy of administrative detention, and held for six months without trial. His imprisonment has since been extended.

In a Friday press release, the Red Cross warned that Allaan's life is in immediate danger, and called upon Israeli authorities to allow his mother to visit him in hospital.

"We believe that Mr Allaan's life is at immediate risk," said Jacques de Maio, the head of the ICRC's delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. "His family has been unable to visit him since 22 March, and they are very anxious about him. Given the current circumstances, we ask the Israeli authorities to allow them to see him as a matter of urgency."

A protester against Israel's policy of detention without trial holds a sign reading, 'Guantanamo is here,' in 2014. Credit: Emil Salman

Jamil Khatib, Allaan's lawyer, told Palestinian news agency Ma'an that, despite his deteriorating health situation, Allaan remains committed to continuing his hunger strike in full. Khatib also said that the IDF military prosecutor notified him of their intention to turn to a court on Saturday night to attain an order to force feed Allaan.

The ethics committee at Soroka Medical Center on Thursday determined that if the prisoner's life is at risk, doctors will be allowed to examine him and decide whether to provide treatment against his will.

The Palestinian Authority's Prisoners Affairs Minister, Issa Qaraqa', said Friday evening that the Israel Police threatened to arrest Allaan's family members if they do not leave the grounds of Soroka Medical Center.

According to the law defining patients' rights, treatment can be administered in extreme cases when a patient's life is in danger, even against his or her will. This step needs approval by three doctors who are treating the patient. It applies to situations in which the patient is unconscious and offers no physical resistance, so that treatment does not entail coercion or physical restraint.

The prisoner is under the charge of the Israel Prison Services, and hospital officials say he is conscious and is refusing to eat or receive treatment.

At this stage prison officials do not want to implement the recently passed law allowing force feeding, and his treatment will comply with the law governing patients' rights. In general, there is widespread opposition among doctors to force feeding, and it is doubtful that the ethics committee will approve the measure with someone who physically resists.

Mother's hunger strike

On Saturday afternoon, the Israel Prison Service allowed Allaan's mother to visit for about an hour. Allaan has been handcuffed to his bed for the past 16 days, and is now in critical condition.

In protest, Allan's mother has announced that she herself has begun her own hunger strike.

Furthermore, the Red Cross' de Maio defended Allaan's right to continue hunger striking, saying that "any solution must take into account the need to protect his moral and physical integrity. The detainee's choice must be respected and his dignity preserved."

Red Cross representatives visit Allaan regularly and report back to his family on his condition. The organization rarely publishes press releases, only doing so in situations it deems grave.

A Palestinian organization reported that since declaring his hunger strike, Allaan was placed in isolation by Israeli authorities at the Eshel Prison in the Negev, with the intention of pressuring him to cease hunger striking. According to the organization, Allaan has been transported several times from Eshel Prison, near Be'er Sheva, to Soroka Medical Center. Allaan has refused to take vitamins and minerals, including salt (although he has been drinking water.)

According to medical literature, from the 42nd day of such a hunger strike, severe, life-threatening complications are expected to arise. On Friday, reports said that with the deterioration of Allaan's condition, he has begun vomiting the water he consumes, is suffering from dizziness, general weakness and is experiencing difficulty walking and talking.

Knesset member Osama Sa'adi, from the Joint List faction, told Ma'an that hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel have arrived at the hospital to express solidarity with Allaan's hunger strike.

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