Pressure Mounts on PA to Save Palestinian Hunger Striker in 'Imminent Danger'

Palestinian groups call for the release of Hisham Abu Hawash, who has refused food to protest his detention without trial for 139 days

Hisham Abu Hawash, before he started his hunger strike to protest detention without trial by Israel.
Hisham Abu Hawash, before he started his hunger strike to protest detention without trial by Israel.Credit: Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees' Affairs

Pressure on the Palestinian Authority to intervene on behalf of Hisham Abu Hawash from Israeli custody is intensifying, as his condition rapidly deteriorates on the 139th day of a hunger strike.

Abu Hawash's family members have urged the PA leadership to intervene with Israel to save his life, while protests have taken place across the West Bank over the weekend, including in Al-Manara Square in Ramallah. On Sunday four people were arrested in Umm al -Fahm at a support rally for Abu Hawash.

A rally in support of Abu Hawash in Ramallah, on Saturday.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society also called on Saturday for international intervention to secure his release, and called on the Palestinian Authority to take action.

They have noted that calls for Abu Hawash's release have reached the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who only last week met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz in his home.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said they are closely monitoring the situation and said it reached out to international to press for Abu Hawash's release, noting it holds Israel fully responsible for his life.

The Gaza-based Islamic Jihad said it was raising its level of alert following reports of Abu Hawash's deteriorating condition, and threatened an "explosion" if the detainee dies. This comes hours after Palestinian militants fired rockets toward central Israel.

Abu Hawash is protesting his detention without trial. While Israel temporarily suspended his administrative detention order this week on account of his dire condition, he has carried on with his strike – the longest since an eight-month-long one by Samer Issawi that ended in 2013 – as long as the detention order is not revoked entirely.

A medical report prepared by Physicians for Human Rights warned that his life is in “immediate danger” due to extreme nutritional deficiencies that put him at risk of death at any moment due to organ failure.

A spokesperson for the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where Abu Hawash is held, confirmed his condition is “very bad.”

Dr. Lina Qasem Hassan, who consulted Abu Hawash on behalf of the NGO, reported that despite his dire condition, he has continued to refuse any form of treatment or monitoring such as laboratory tests or physical examination, adding that it was clear in her conversation with Abu Hawash that “the main reason for his noncooperation with the medical staff is a lack of trust.”

According to the Israel Medical Association guidelines for doctors caring for prisoners or detainees on a hunger strike, a patient is at risk of sudden death after 55 days without food.

Abu Hawash, 40, from the town of Dura near Hebron, was detained on October 27, 2020. Immediately after his arrest, an administrative detention order was issued against him for a period of six months and was renewed several times.

The Shin Bet security service claims he is an Islamic Jihad activist who endangers regional security. To date, the Shin Bet has not provided explicit evidence in support of its allegations. Abu Hawash, who under police questioning has denied the general suspicions against him, has not received a court hearing as part of Israel's administrative detention policy.

Representatives of Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention announced on last month that they had decided to boycott the Israeli legal system, and their lawyers will no longer appear in sessions on their matters in military courts and the Supreme Court. The boycott went into effect on Saturday.

Representatives of the detainees explained that the decision was made in protest of the broad use of administrative detention by the defense establishment in Israel. According to the representatives’ statement, if Israel continues to use this tool, which they say violates international law, the administrative detainees could very well declare a general hunger strike.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society noted that 1,595 Palestinians were administratively detained in 2021, most of them from East Jerusalem.

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