Palestinian Detainee Ends Hunger Strike After 141 Days

An agreement was reached Tuesday night to end Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash’s 141-day hunger strike, which threatened to renew hostilities between Israel and Gaza militant groups over his deteriorating condition and imminent danger to his life.

According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Abu Hawash weighed 86 kilograms (190 pounds) before his hunger strike. By December 29, when Dr. Lina Qassem visited Abu Hawwash on behalf of the organization, he was estimated to weigh just 45 kilograms (99 pounds). “He is in immediate, fatal danger,” Qassem wrote.

A Palestinian Prisoners’ Club official confirmed the administrative detention order against Abu Hawash, who went on a hunger strike to protest this arrest without trial, will not be renewed, following negotiations between Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian officials, including Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian intelligence. Abu Hawash, from the town of Dura, near Hebron, has spent more than seven years behind bars in the past two decades, more than half of it without charge, according to a prisoner’s rights group, the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Joint List chair, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), with Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash at the hospital (Photo: Al-Ittihad)

After days of protests calling for his release and mounting fears in Israel of widespread unrest if he died in custody, the government capitulated. “If Abu Hawash died in custody,” said Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), “they know that the occupied West Bank will ignite and there will be pressure from the international community.” During last week Hadash lawmakers, Joint List chair Ayman Odeh, Ofer Cassif and Touma-Slima, visited the hunger-striking prisoner in an Israeli hospital.

As Abu Hawash’s physical condition spiraled, the European Union and the United Kingdom both called on Israel to either charge the detainee or release him. “Detainees have the right to be informed about charges underlying any detention, must be given a fair trial within a reasonable time or be released,” the EU’s envoy to the Palestinians said in a statement on Sunday.

Islamic Jihad repeatedly threatened renewed violence against Israel should Abu Hawash have died in Israeli custody. “He is being subjected to a process of assassination, of elimination,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement on Saturday afternoon. “We will deal with the matter according to our commitment to respond to any criminal assassination by the enemy.”

Israel has used administrative detention to imprison thousands of Palestinians from the occupied territories since 1967, detaining them under military law for open-ended terms based on secret evidence. With no charges and no way to defend against them, lawyers can only petition the courts for their clients’ release. Israel does not regularly release official numbers but the prisoner-rights group Addameer estimates that there are 500 Palestinians currently in administrative detention, including four minors.