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Top Israeli court rejects second petition to release hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Awawdeh

Palestinian administrative prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 160 days, is seen at Assaf Harofeh hospital in Be'er Ya'akov, the Israeli-occupied territories, on August 24, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

The so-called Israeli High Court of Justice Court has rejected a petition for the release of Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been on hunger strike for nearly six months against his continued detention without charge by Israeli officials and whose lawyer says is in danger of “sudden death.”

“We can only hope again that the petitioner will come to his senses and stop the hunger strike,” the court said in its Tuesday ruling.

The court further claimed that it was confident he would receive the necessary medical care.

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.” 

Earlier this month, Israeli authorities suspended his administrative detention for the duration of his hospitalization.

Last week, the Israeli High Court rejected Awawdeh’s first appeal, asserting that given the suspension of his detention during the hospital stay, there was no need for legal intervention.

Ahlam Haddad, Awawdeh’s attorney had argued in her new petition that the administrative detention must be lifted altogether.

If there were charges against her client that warranted jail time, then he should be given the right to defend himself in a court of law, she said.

Haddad said her client, who started his hunger strike on March 3, was in poor health and consequently could pose no danger.

Neurologist Bettina Birmanns, who visited Awawdeh on Friday, said he was at risk of irreversible neurological damage and could die.

The Islamic Jihad resistance 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.

The Israeli NGO HaMoked said the Israeli regime now holds 671 Palestinian administrative detainees.

“The number of administrative detainees has increased dramatically over the past few months. This is outrageous. These detainees should be given a fair trial or released immediately. This sweeping use of administrative detention is unacceptable,” HaMoked executive director Jessica Montell said.

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