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EU says 'shocked' by pictures of Palestinian hunger striker Awawdeh, calls for his release

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 160 days in protest at his so-called administrative detention, is seen at Assaf Harofeh hospital in Be'er Ya'akov, the Israeli-occupied territories, on August 24, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

The European Union says it is “shocked” to see pictures of the frail body of Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been on a continuing hunger strike for nearly six months in protest at his detention by Israel without trial or charge, calling for his release.

“Shocked by the horrible pictures of Awawdeh who is hunger striking now for 169 days in protest against his detention without charges and is in imminent danger of dying,” the EU delegation to Palestine said in a post published on its Twitter page.

“Unless charged immediately, he has to be released,” it stressed.

Calls are growing internationally for the release of the 40-year-old Awawdeh, after his wife shared images of his extremely emaciated body on Sunday, a day after she visited his hospital room. 

Doctors have warned that Awawdeh is at risk of imminent death, his body reached a frail stage after losing tens of kilograms, and his skeleton and chest bones have protruded.

Awawdeh's family has released a video message from him while on hospital bed.

Awawdeh said in the message that “his body, on which only bone and skin remain, does not reflect the weakness and nakedness of Palestinian people, but rather reflects and mirrors the face of real occupation.”

He added that he has gone on a hunger strike to say that “there is a prisoner without any charge who has stood against the barbaric administration detention with his flesh and blood.” 

Awawdeh, a father of four daughters, was arrested by Israeli military forces from his home in the southern occupied West Bank town of Idhna, located 13 kilometers (8 miles) west of al-Khalil, in December 2021 and held under Israel’s so-called administrative detention.

He has been arrested five times throughout his life, spending a total of 13 years in Israeli prisons.

Israel accused Awawdeh of being an activist for the Islamic Jihad resistance movement.

The Gaza-based movement last month demanded that Awawdeh be released as part of the conditions of an August 7 ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s three-day bombardment of Gaza, in which 49 Palestinians, including 17 children, were killed.

However, Israeli officials denied this and remain adamant that both Awawdeh and Bassam al-Saadi, a senior Islamic Jihad figure from the northern West Bank city of Jenin, will be kept in detention.

Over 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in some 17 Israeli jails, with dozens of them serving multiple life sentences.

Israeli authorities keep Palestinian prisoners under deplorable conditions lacking proper hygienic standards. They have also been subject to systematic torture, harassment, and repression all through the years of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

According to the Palestine Detainees Studies Center, about 60% of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails suffer from chronic diseases, and a number of them have died in detention or after being released due to the severity of their cases.

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