Jailed Palestinian ‘dying’ over 100 days into hunger strike

Wife of detained Palestinian says he is feeble, consuming only water and has difficulty speaking.

Palestinians carry placards demanding the release of administrative detainee in Israeli custody Maher al-Akhras during a demonstration in Hebron [Hazem Bader/AFP]

A Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days is close to dying, his wife said, adding he was also experiencing severe cramps and headache.

Maher al-Akhras, 49, was arrested near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus in July and put in administrative detention, a policy that Israel uses to hold suspects without charge.

The father of six launched his hunger strike to protest the four-month detention order which ends on November 26 but could be extended.

“Every day, he dies 100 times in front of my eyes and I can do nothing,” his wife Taghrid al-Akhras told AFP news agency from Maher’s bedside in Kaplan hospital, near Tel Aviv on Friday.

Maher, who is suspected of links to the armed Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, was transferred from prison to the hospital in early September as his health deteriorated.

“What to do when we see those dearest to us dying in front of us,” said Taghrid, adding that her husband is feeble, consuming only water and has difficulty speaking.

“What danger can he present when he cannot even get out of bed?”

Late last month, as the International Committee of the Red Cross warned of “potentially irreversible health consequences”, Maher was moved back to the medical wing of nearby Ramla prison but the Israeli supreme court ordered him to be returned to Kaplan.

Maher has been arrested several times by Israel in the past.

Palestinians in Hebron demand the release of the administrative detainee in Israeli custody, Maher al-Akhras [Hazem Basder/AFP]

Maher’s lawyers have appealed several times for his early release or transfer to a Palestinian hospital but without success.

“Israel is doing, and will continue to do, all it can to ensure the health of al-Akhras,” the Israeli foreign ministry said on Friday.

“However, it should be noted that the hunger strikes are being used as a political tool by terrorists and by terrorist organisations.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has demanded his immediate release, while Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel have held demonstrations in his support.

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 of August this year, about 355 Palestinians, including two minors, were being held under administrative detention orders, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Many Palestinian prisoners say they have been subject to torture and violence while in custody. There have been many protests against poor prison conditions in recent years, including several hunger strikes.

Many prisoners also suffer from medical negligence in jails. Prisoners must pay for their own medical treatment, and are not provided with adequate healthcare.

Al Jazeera previously reported many are given pain killers as medication and a solution to chronic illness.

According to prisoner support organisation Addameer, 4,400 Palestinian political prisoners, including 39 female and 155 children, are being held under Israeli custody as of September.