Palestinian hunger strikers denied release


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal for the release of two hunger-striking Palestinians.

In its decision Monday, the court reportedly said that Bilal Diab, 27, of Jenin, and Thaer Halahla, 33, of Hebron, both members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, remained a terror threat to Israel and that a hunger strike is not enough of a reason to release them.

They have been on a hunger strike for 70 days and are hovering near death, according to reports.

Diab and Halahla are protesting being held in administrative detention. A prisoner can be held in administrative detention, without charges being brought, for up to four months; it can also be renewed.

Diab has been in an Israeli jail for nine months. Halahlah has been in custody for 22 months.

The court said that the length of the time that the men had been in custody merited a review of the concept of administrative detention and that individual cases should be investigated more thoroughly.

Some 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are on an open-ended hunger strike launched three weeks ago. The mass hunger strike is calling for an end to solitary confinement and isolation; for allowing families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit their loved ones; and allowing prisoners to have newspapers, learning materials and specific television channels. It is also protesting administrative detention.

Ten of the hunger strikers reportedly are under hospital supervision.

Hamas has threatened consequences if any of the hunger strikers die.

"If that happens, you can expect both the expected and the unexpected from us," Gaza City Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya said over the weekend. Islamic Jihad also threatened to launch rocket attacks at Israel from Gaza if any of the hunger strikers die.

Israeli prisons commissioner Aharon Franco last week told Palestinian hunger strikers that he had named a panel to address the prisoners’ demands, according to Arab news sources.

More than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, with some 320 in administrative detention.

Two high-profile hunger strikers were released earlier this year after cutting deals with Israeli authorities.

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