Palestinian held by Israel ends hunger strike after 103 days

Jerusalem (AFP) –


A Palestinian detained by Israel for his alleged membership in a militant group has ended his hunger strike after over 100 days, his wife said Friday.

The announcement came amid concerns over the health of Maher al-Akhras, who had been protesting being held without charge.

In a phone conversation from Kaplan hospital in Rehovot, an Israeli city south of Tel Aviv where her husband was being treated, Taghrid al-Akhras told AFP that her husband has "stopped his hunger strike after 103 days."

Akhras, 49, was arrested near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus in July and put in administrative detention, a policy that Israel uses to hold suspected militants without charge.

He is suspected of links to the armed Palestinian group Islamic Jihad.

The father of six launched his fast to protest a four-month detention order, which is due to end on November 26.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Club, Akhras ended his hunger strike after Israeli authorities committed to not extending his detention beyond that date.

A spokesperson for Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency could not confirm any such agreement.

Five members of the Israeli parliament from the Joint Arab List, who were visiting Ahkras in his hospital room, broadcast the announcement to end the hunger strike live on Facebook.

-'Happy' but 'concerned'-

Speaking with AFP after the hunger strike had ended, Taghrid al-Akhras said she was "happy" but still "concerned" given her husband's severe medical condition.

Prior to the announcement, she had told AFP he was experiencing seizures due to his prolonged fast.

"Every day, he dies 100 times in front of my eyes and I can do nothing," she said.

"What to do when we see those dearest to us dying in front of us?"

Akhras was transferred from prison to the hospital in early September, as his health deteriorated.

A Kaplan hospital spokeswoman told AFP he would remain in the hospital for the time being.

Late last month, as the International Committee of the Red Cross warned of "potentially irreversible health consequences", he was moved back to the medical wing of nearby Ramla prison, but the Israeli supreme court ordered him returned to Kaplan.

His lawyers have appealed several times for his early release or his transfer to a Palestinian hospital.

The Israeli foreign ministry said on Friday that the state was doing "all it can to ensure the health of Mr. Al-Akhras."

"However, it should be noted that the hunger strikes are being used as a political tool by terrorists, and by terrorist organisations," the foreign ministry statement said.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has demanded his immediate release, while Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have held demonstrations in his support.

Akhras has been arrested several times by Israel in the past.

Israel's administrative detention policy, inherited from the British mandate of Palestine, allows the internment of prisoners without charge for renewable periods of up to six months each time.

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 Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.