Palestinian hunger striker held by Israel could die at any moment, lawyer says

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  • Awawdeh has been held without charge since Dec 2021
  • He has lost over half his weight, now weighing 40 kg
  • Israel says he poses a threat but has released no evidence

JERUSALEM, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for over 160 days in protest over his detention by Israel could die at any moment, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Israeli forces arrested Khalil Awawdeh, 40, in December 2021 and have since held him without charge or trial, a practice known as administrative detention.

Israel has provided few details about the accusations facing Awawdeh. An Israeli military spokesperson said on Wednesday his detention had been confirmed several times by military courts "and it was determined that the confidential material in his case indicates that his release will threaten the security of the area."

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In March, Awawdeh launched a hunger strike demanding his freedom. He has subsisted only on water since, said his lawyer, Ahlam Haddad.

Egyptian mediators recently pushed for Awawdeh's release under a ceasefire agreement to end three days of fighting in Gaza between Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group.

An Egyptian security source speaking on condition of anonymity said on Wednesday that Egypt presented a list of prisoners, including Awawdeh, to Israeli officials and Israel promised to look into it, while expressing reservations on some of the names.

With Israeli forces conducting near-daily operations against suspected militants in the West Bank, Awawdeh's death could further inflame a crisis that has escalated for months.

"I feel that my body is consuming itself internally," Awawdeh told Reuters from his hospital bed, his eyes widening and his voice fluctuating as he spoke. "God's support, steadfastness and patience are what enable me to continue."

Awawdeh was recently transferred from Ramle Prison to the Asaf Harofeh hospital in Israel due to his failing health.

Last Friday, the Israeli military temporarily suspended the administrative detention order against Awawdeh because his condition was deteriorating. However, he is not allowed to leave the hospital, a military spokesperson said.

Awawdeh has managed to survive this long without food likely because of a two-week break a couple of months ago, during which he received vitamin supplements, said Naji Abbas, the case manager for prisoners at Physicians for Human Rights - Israel.

At the time, Awawdeh, who now weighs 40 kilograms after having lost about 45 kilograms, agreed to end his hunger strike, thinking he was about to be released, said Abbas.

Awawdeh's family, which lives near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, has so far been refused permission to visit him by Israel but have supported his decision to continue his hunger strike.

"He was detained with no charge or trial," his wife, Dalal Awawdeh, said. "Just as he was detained forcefully and taken from us, he will demand his freedom whether the occupation approves or not."

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Reporting and writing by Henriette Chacar; Additional reporting by Sinan Abu Mayzer, Yosri al-Jamal and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Editing by James Mackenzie, Bernadette Baum

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