Palestinian detainee ends hunger strike, expects release

A Palestinian detainee held by Israel without charge or trial said Wednesday that he is ending his nearly six-month hunger strike after reaching an agreement that will see him released in October.

Lawyers and physicians had warned that the Khalil Awawdeh, a 40-year-old father of four from the occupied West Bank, was at risk of dying and already suffering neurological damage from the prolonged hunger strike. In recent pictures, he appears extremely gaunt and ill, his skin tightly stretched over a bony frame.

In a video circulated online Wednesday and apparently shot from his hospital bed, Awawdeh confirmed that an agreement had been reached for his release, calling it a “resounding victory” for the Palestinian people.

Awawdeh was protesting being held without charge or trial in what’s known as administrative detention. Israel says the practice is needed to keep dangerous militants off the streets without revealing sensitive intelligence. The Palestinians and rights groups say it denies detainees the basic right of due process.

The Commission of Detainee Affairs, part of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Awawdeh had reached an agreement that would see him released on Oct. 2, “after fighting an epic battle for which he sacrificed his flesh and life.”

It said he will remain in an Israeli hospital until he has fully recovered.

The exact details of the agreement were unclear. The Israeli military, the prison service and the Defense Ministry declined to comment. The Shin Bet internal security service did not respond to a request for comment.

Israel accuses Awawdeh of being a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, an allegation he denies. The group had demanded his release as part of the cease-fire that ended three days of heavy fighting in Gaza earlier this month, without identifying him as a member.

Ahlam Haddad, Awawdeh’s lawyer, said this week that her client weighs 37 kilograms (around 80 pounds) and is suffering from neurological damage. He took vitamins over two weeks in June when he thought his case was being resolved but has otherwise only had water since the strike began in March, his family says.

Israel had officially suspended his arrest, but he remained in custody at an Israeli hospital.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Mahmoud Ilean