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Israel offers to exile hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner

AFP / Said Khatib |Children hold a placard bearing the portrait of Mohammed Allan during a march at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2015

Israel on Monday offered to free a Palestinian detainee whose two-month hunger strike has left him in a coma -- but only if he goes abroad, a demand his lawyer immediately dismissed.


The justice ministry made its proposal ahead of a hearing at Israel's top court over whether to release Mohammed Allan, 31, who lapsed into a coma on Friday after ingesting only water since June 18.

The hearing came as tensions rose in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with a Palestinian shot dead during an attempt to stab a border policeman in the fourth such incident in little more than a week.

After hearing arguments on whether to release Allan, the High Court set another hearing for Wednesday. Allan's lawyers argued his condition negated the authorities' stance that he posed a danger.

The justice ministry released a statement ahead of the hearing that included an offer to free Allan, a lawyer from northern West Bank town Einabus, "if he agrees to go abroad for a period of four years".

"We are categorically refusing that proposal," Allan's lawyer Jamil al-Khatib told AFP.

Since he lost consciousness, doctors have used artificial breathing equipment, fluids and vitamins to keep him alive.

A doctor at the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon where Allan is being treated told the court he had not appeared to suffer irreversible damage but would probably not survive if he resumed his hunger strike.

A spokeswoman for Barzilai said Allan's condition remained "stable".

"There are still a number of problems... and he is being treated accordingly," she said, noting the hospital was considering taking him off the respirator.

West Bank tensions

Tensions have soared in the West Bank in recent weeks in the wake of the firebombing of a Palestinian home in the village of Duma, attributed to Jewish extremists, which killed an 18-month-old child and his father.

On Monday, Israeli security forces shot dead a Palestinian who tried to stab a border police officer at the Tapuah Junction near Nablus in the northern West Bank.

The Palestinian was identified as Mohammed al-Atrash, 22, from Kufr Raei, a village near the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

In similar attacks Saturday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian who stabbed a border policeman in the northern West Bank, hours after another Palestinian who stabbed a soldier near a checkpoint in the occupied territory was shot and wounded.

On August 9, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian who stabbed and lightly injured an Israeli civilian at a petrol station.

There are fears of an escalation of violence if Allan dies from his hunger strike.

He has been protesting his internment under administrative detention, which allows people to be held without charge for six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

He has been in custody since November 2014.

The Islamic Jihad describes Allan as a member of the militant movement, as does Israel, which has used administrative detention to hold Palestinians it deems to be security risks while not divulging what the authorities view as sensitive intelligence.

Many Palestinian prisoners have staged hunger strikes, including those on administrative detention.

Allan's protest has also raised questions over whether Israel would seek to invoke a law passed last month allowing prisoners to be force-fed when their lives are in danger.

Doctors and activists strongly oppose the law, including those who say the practice amounts to torture and robs Palestinians of a legitimate form of protest.

The law requires the authorities to seek a court order to allow for force feeding, which they have not done.

Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have been holding demonstrations in support of Allan since Friday.

On Monday, hundreds of Palestinians in Hebron held a peaceful rally in the southern West Bank city's centre, waving Palestinian flags and holding Allan's picture while calling for his release.


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