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Palestinian hunger-striker close to death

By AFP - Oct 12,2020 - Last updated at Oct 12,2020

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories — A Palestinian man on hunger strike for nearly 80 days since his arrest by Israel in late July is "on the verge of death", Israeli rights group B'Tselem said on Monday.

Maher Al Akhras, 49, was arrested near Nablus and placed in administrative detention, a policy that Israel uses to hold suspected militants without charge.

The married father of six launched his strike to protest the policy.

He has been arrested several times previously by Israel, which accuses him of having ties to the Islamic Jihad militant group.

On Monday, some 40 people held a rally in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah to support him.

"Our people will not let Maher Al Akhras down," said Khader Adnan, one of those taking part in the rally, and who has himself carried out a several hunger strikes in Israeli captivity.

Adnan called on the international community and Palestinian leaders to pressure Israel over the case.

"Do more over the coming hours," he said. "We are in the critical stage."

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh demanded Akhras's "immediate release", according to a statement on the official Wafa news agency.

Akhras was transferred in early September to Kaplan Hospital, south of Tel Aviv.

His lawyers have appealed on multiple occasions to Israel's supreme court for his release, including at a hearing on Monday.

Israel's top court deferred a ruling on Monday's request, saying the case remained under review, according to a summary of the hearing seen by AFP.

AFP made repeated efforts to contact his legal team on Monday.

Israel's administrative detention system, inherited from the British mandate, allows the internment of prisoners for renewable periods of up to six months each, without bringing charges.

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.

Around 355 Palestinians were being held under administrative detention orders as of August, including two minors, according to B'Tselem.

 

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