Palestinian Hunger Striker Has Refused Food for 160 Days

Egypt is seeking release of Khalil Awawdeh as part of Gaza ceasefire deal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 9, 2022 1:52 PM CDT
Hunger Striker Is at Center of Gaza Ceasefire Efforts
Maryam holds a poster showing her father Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian prisoner in Israel, at the family house in the West Bank village of Idna, Hebron, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.   (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

(Newser) – A Palestinian hunger striker who his family says has refused food for the past 160 days and is wasting away in an Israeli jailhouse infirmary has suddenly been thrust into the center of efforts to firm up a Gaza ceasefire. Khalil Awawdeh is in the spotlight because the Islamic Jihad group sought his release as part of Egyptian-brokered talks that ended three days of fighting between the Gaza-based militants and Israel over the weekend. In an attempt to win the militants' agreement to halt their fire, Egypt had assured them it would also try to win the release of their West Bank leader and of Awawdeh, the AP reports.

The 40-year-old father of four girls, gaunt and weakened, is protesting his detention without charge or trial by Israel. He is one of dozens of prisoners who have staged hunger strikes in Israeli prisons. Prospects for his release are uncertain. But his case highlights the plight of hundreds of Palestinians who are being held by Israel under a system that critics say denies them the right to due process. Israel can hold so-called administrative detainees indefinitely, without showing them the alleged evidence against them or taking them to trial in military courts. Many turn to hunger strikes as a last recourse to bring attention to their situation. Around 670 Palestinians are now being held in administrative detention.

Awawdeh's lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, said her client is "moving between life and death" and that it makes no sense to keep him in detention. "He looks like a pile of bones," she said. "How much of a threat can he be?” His family says he not eaten for 160 days, and has only been drinking water, except for a 10-day period when he also received vitamin injections. Haddad said he was arrested in December, accused by Israel of being a member of a militant group, a charge she said he denies. Dawood Shihab, an Islamic Jihad official, said the group demanded his release as part of the truce talks because it supported his struggle for freedom, not because he is a member.

(Read more Israel stories.)

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