Israel agrees to release Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike

Hisham Abu Hawwash, who was detained without charge or trial, to end 141-day hunger strike after reaching deal with Israel to be released on February 26.

Hisham Abu Hawash protest west bank
Relatives of Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawwash, who is held by Israel, celebrate after he ended his hunger strike, in Dura, occupied West Bank [Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

A Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 141 days to protest being imprisoned without charge has agreed to end his fast after reaching a deal with Israel to be released next month, his lawyer said.

Hisham Abu Hawwash, a 40-year-old father of five, is the latest of several Palestinians to go on hunger strike to protest being held under “administrative detention”, a measure where a prisoner is held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Administrative detainees are arrested on “secret evidence”, unaware of the accusations against them, and are not allowed to defend themselves in court.

Abu Hawwash’s lawyer, Jawad Boulos, said on Tuesday that he agreed to end the hunger strike after Israel pledged to release him on February 26. There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

Palestinians have rallied across the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip in support of Abu Hawwash. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad had threatened military action against Israel if he died in custody.

Prisoner groups had warned that Abu Hawwash faced “imminent danger of death”.

Abu Hawwash is the latest of several prisoners who have in recent weeks refused food and water to protest their detention. Hunger strikers are usually hospitalised for prolonged periods until Israeli authorities agree to their release.

Like many before him, Abu Hawwash was hospitalised last month. During the last few days, he slipped in and out of a coma, and temporarily lost his eyesight and his ability to speak, according to local media reports.

Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah, said there had been “many fears” over Abu Hawwash’s life and that his wife and lawyer were in the hospital with him on Tuesday evening.

His hunger strike was the longest since an eight-month-long hunger strike launched by freed prisoner Samer Issawi that ended in 2013.

‘Risked his life’

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said Israel has recently intensified the use of administrative detention, which is why there has been an uptick in the number of prisoners launching hunger strikes in a bid to combat the measure that denies individuals the right to due process.

The group also said that more than 1,600 orders of administrative detention against Palestinian prisoners were issued in 2021 alone.

To date, there are at least 500 administrative detainees held across Israeli prisons and detention facilities, according to the Addameer prisoners’ rights group.

Milena Ansari, prisoner support advocate from Addameer, welcomed the announcement that Abu Hawwash would be released.

“This is excellent news,” Ansari told Al Jazeera from Ramallah. “[But] not being immediately released isn’t fair … since there is no charge,” she said.

The development comes as Palestinian detainees held without charge announced a boycott of Israeli military courts.

This is to “emphasise the mockery of the trials that take place … without any charges or any fair trial guarantees,” Ansari said.

Abdel Latif al-Qanou’, spokesman for Hamas – the group that governs Gaza – said a “new victory” has been made by Abu Hawwash that “confirms our people and our detainees’ ability to win every battle they wage against the occupation”.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric welcomed the deal agreed with Abu Hawwash.

“We have always made it clear that detainees must be tried according to legal procedures or released,” Dujarric said.

The 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank are subject to Israeli military courts, while Jewish settlers living in illegal settlements and outposts are citizens subject to Israel’s civilian justice system.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, but Palestinian leaders want it to form the main part of their future state.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies