The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) released a statement on Thursday, expressing the organization’s concern with the severely deteriorating health of three hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners currently protesting their administrative detention orders.
In the statement, the ICRC addressed the cases of Malik al-Qadi and brothers Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, who have all been on hunger strike for more than 60 days, and are currently being held in Israeli hospitals.
“At this very critical time, we encourage the patients, their representatives and the competent authorities to find a solution that will avoid any loss of life or irreversible damage to their health,” Dr. Hishal, the ICRC doctor who has regularly visited the hunger-striking detainees in hospital, said.
The organization highlighted that its delegates and medical staff have continued to monitor the health conditions of the detainees and their treatment by Israeli prison and medical authorities.
“The ICRC has been in close contact with their families, whom it has kept informed of developments, in accordance with their wishes, and transmitted personal news between them,” the statement said.
Highlighting the gravity of sustaining oneself without any food, vitamin, or form of nourishment except for water, the statement continued, saying that “ICRC staff seek to ensure that all detainees on hunger strike are fully aware of the implications of their decision, and that they are acting on their own initiative and free will.”
In recent weeks, groups of Palestinian youth, activists, and politicians staged sit-in protests in multiple ICRC offices in the occupied West Bank, accusing the organization of not having taken any effective measures to resolve the issue of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
The ICRC’s statement came on the same day that the head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, made a statement that al-Qadi’s current medical state made him the Palestinian hunger-striking prisoner in the most critical condition since 2011.
According to Qaraqe, al-Qadi has been “fighting death” at the Wolfson Medical Center, as he has remained in a coma for five days, while suffering from a severe lung infection, low heart rate, urinary system complications, puffiness around the eyes, and hearing loss.
Al-Qadi, a journalism and media student at al-Quds University, was detained on May 23 and had previously spent four months in Israeli custody after being detained in December 2015.
Last week, an Israeli court temporarily suspended al-Qadi’s administrative detention, just one day following the suspension of the Balboul brothers’ detentions. In all three cases, the courts said the sentences would be suspended until their health conditions improved.
Sanaa Balboul, Muhammad and Mahmoud's mother, was able to visit her sons on Sunday for the first time since they were taken by Israeli soldiers after a raid on their home on June 9, shortly before their younger sister Nuran, 16, was released after spending four months in Israeli prison.
Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals based on undisclosed evidence, has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, students, and journalists.
Sanaa Balboul told Ma'an she believed her children were targeted as a result of her late husband's political activities in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. He was shot dead by undercover Israeli forces in 2008.
Although Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.
According to prisoners rights group Addameer, as of August, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 700 of whom were being held under administrative detention.
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