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Palestinian Israeli conflict

Palestinian prisoner freed, claims victory after two-month hunger strike

Published: Updated:

A Palestinian on hunger strike for more than two months while in Israeli detention claimed “victory” Friday after his release and transfer to a hospital in the occupied West Bank.

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Ghadanfar Abu Atwan, 28, who was held in Israel without charge, told AFP in Ramallah’s Istishari hospital that his hunger strike and subsequent release marked a blow against Israel’s controversial practice of administrative detention.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said in a statement early Friday that she had overseen Atwan’s transfer on Thursday from an Israeli hospital to Istishari, accusing Israel of “serious neglect of the rights of a Palestinian prisoner.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday that its doctors had visited Atwan while he was held in Israel and described his condition as “critical” following 67 days of hunger strike, raising concern about “irreversible health consequences.”

Medical staff at Istishari told AFP that after admitting Atwan they began vitamin injections and hoped to allow him to eat solid foods within days.

Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, did not respond to requests for comment on the case.

Israeli media outlets have reported that Atwan was detained over membership of a Palestinian militant group, but that the military had approved his transfer to Ramallah.

The army was not immediately available to comment.

Israel’s administrative detention policy, inherited from the British mandate of Palestine, allows the internment of prisoners without charge for renewable periods of up to six months each time.

Israel says the procedure allows authorities to hold suspects and prevent attacks while continuing to gather evidence, but critics and rights groups say the system is abused.

As he received a steady flow of phone calls and visitors in his hospital room, Atwan -- emaciated and appearing jaundiced -- boasted that he “broke the occupation,” a reference to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank since 1967.

“Everyone in administrative detention should go on hunger strike,” he told AFP, insisting it was an effective tool against an “unjust” practice.

Atwan was lauded in several Palestinian newspapers on Friday, including the Al Quds, which praised his “win over the jailer.”

According to the Israeli anti-occupation civil society group B’Tselem and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, more than 375 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli administrative detention.

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