Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner appeals detention to Supreme Court

The lawyer for a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner said Tuesday that his client would appeal his case to Israel’s Supreme Court, as he continues what his family says is 165 days without food.

Khalil Awawdeh is protesting being held without charge or trial. Ahlam Haddad, Awawdeh’s lawyer, said her client’s health is deteriorating and he is seeking to be released. An Israeli military court on Monday rejected his appeal.

“This man has not gotten justice,” Haddad said. “We turn to… the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, to possibly get the relief we’ve requested, which is his release from administrative detention.”

Awawdeh, a 40-year-old father of four, is one of several Palestinian prisoners who have gone on prolonged hunger strikes over the years to protest so-called administrative detention. Israel says the policy helps keep dangerous terrorists off the streets and allows the government to hold suspects without divulging sensitive intelligence. Critics say the policy denies prisoners due process. Administrative detainees can be held for months or years without charge or trial.

Israel says Awawdeh is a member of a terror group, an allegation he has denied through his lawyer.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group demanded his release as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ending three days of heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip earlier this month, but it did not identify him as a member.

Islamic Jihad also demanded the release of a second prisoner — Bassem Saadi, whose remand was extended Tuesday. The arrest earlier this month of Saadi, the PIJ’s leader in the West Bank, sparked the fighting in Gaza.

Bassem Saadi, head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group in the West Bank, arrives for a remand hearing at the Ofer prison, outside of Jerusalem, on August 16, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Haddad said her client has not eaten during the strike except for a 10-day period in which he received vitamin injections. The Shin Bet internal security service has not commented on his case.

Israel is currently holding some 4,400 Palestinian prisoners, among them terrorists who have carried out deadly attacks as well as people arrested at protests or for throwing stones. Around 670 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention, a number that jumped in March as Israel began near-nightly arrest raids in the West Bank following a spate of deadly terror attacks against Israelis.

Israel says it provides due process and largely imprisons those who threaten its security, though a small number are held for petty crimes.

Palestinians and human rights groups say the system is designed to quash opposition and maintain permanent control over millions of Palestinians while denying them basic rights.