An Israeli military court has rejected an appeal to end the detention of a Palestinian journalist who is in critical condition because of an ongoing hunger strike, which has spanned 54 days so far. 

Thrown out by an Israeli military court on Saturday, the appeal called for Israel to end 33-year-old Muhammad al-Qeq's administrative detention. Qeq launched his hunger strike on November 24 and vowed to continue until he is released. 

Administrative detention is a practice in which Israel jails Palestinians for renewable six-month intervals on "secret evidence" without charge or trial.

Of the estimated 6,800 Palestinians behind bars in December, at least 660 were administrative detainees, according to Addameer Prisoner Support Network. 
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The decision came just days after Qeq started to refuse vitamins and was transferred to a hospital in Afula, a city in northern Israel.

The journalist, who is from the Hebron area of the southern occupied West Bank, is in critical condition, a Palestinian official confirmed. 

Laith Abu Zeyad, an international advocacy officer for Addameer, said Qeq has been forced against his will to undergo medical examinations, including a blood test and a glucose injection. 

Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Authority's prisoner committee, said Qeq has also been threatened with force-feeding.

"Force-feeding is illegal and it's torture," he told Al Jazeera. 

"This isn't the first time Qeq has been targeted. He's been arrested several times in the past," Qaraqe said, adding the journalist has lost 22kg since he stopped eating. 


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Sivan Wayzman, a spokesman for the Israel Prison Service (IPS), dismissed the claim, saying "any publications regarding [his] force-feeding are incorrect". 

Declining to comment on Qeq's health, the spokesman confirmed that at least two administrative detainees - Qeq and Hassan Shuka - are refusing food. 

Wayzman said Shuka, currently held in the Kishon jail (also known as al-Jalameh), had been on a hunger strike for 22 days, although Palestinian media sources put the number at more than 30. 

Escalation 

Qaraqe and Addameer worry that IPS will turn to force-feeding if Qeq's hunger strike continues. 

In June 2014, the Israeli Knesset passed legislation permitting the use of force-feeding against hunger strikers. 

Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights groups subsequently condemned the bill, as did the United Nations and the Israeli Medical Association. 

Abu Zeyad of Addameer pointed out that the practice violates prisoners' "bodily integrity and their basic human dignity". 

Since an escalation in protests against Israel's ongoing occupation in October, the number of Palestinians arrested or detained by Israeli forces has soared, Abu Zeyad told Al Jazeera. 

From October 1 till the end of December, Israel arrested an estimated 2,700 Palestinians, including "an increased number of women and children". 

"This is a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. The number and the increase at this rate cannot be explained as anything else," Abu Zeyad said. 


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Hunger strikes have escalated in Israeli prisons in recent weeks. "That people are willing to refuse food says a lot about how little hope they have in a just legal process," said Abu Zeyad. 

"This is a peaceful means of protest by people who feel that they have no other tools." 

In the Meggido detention facility, at least 10 Palestinian prisoners were placed in solidarity confinement over the weekend after they launched an open-ended hunger strike on Thursday.

Held in a transfer section of the prison for weeks because of a lack of space, they are protesting against overcrowding and poor living conditions, according to the Palestinian Centre for Prisoners' Studies. 

Abdullah Abu Jaber, a dual Palestinian-Jordanian national who has been serving a 20-year sentence since 2000, renewed a hunger strike on December 31 and is demanding to be transferred to a Jordanian prison to complete the final five years of his sentence.

Palestinian official Qaraqe said there has been an increase in hunger strikes over the past five years. "This is the natural response to Israel's policy of arresting Palestinians en masse and subjecting them to military courts." 

Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_

Source: Al Jazeera