JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Palestinian on a hunger strike against his detention without trial was brought out of sedation in an Israeli hospital on Tuesday and vowed to continue his fast, one of his lawyers said.
The condition of Islamic Jihad activist Mohammed Allan, who began to refuse food two months ago, is being closely monitored by opposing forces in an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that could boil over in new violence if he dies.
Israel has not formally charged Allan with any crime but said he was involved in “grave terrorism” on behalf of Islamic Jihad, which has threatened attacks against Israel if he dies. He was arrested last November in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
At a hearing in Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday on Allan’s petition for unconditional release, the Justice Ministry said it would consider freeing him if he agreed to be exiled abroad for four years.
His lawyers rejected the proposal, saying Allan poses no security threat, and the court, urging the sides to negotiate, scheduled another session for Wednesday.
Sedated since Friday after doctors said his condition had deteriorated sharply, Allan, 31, had been given medication intravenously at Barzilai hospital in southern Israel.
The hospital said doctors, reporting an improvement in his condition, weaned him off a respirator and cut his sedation, and that Allan was “conscious and communicating”.
Jawad Bolus, head of the legal department at the Palestinian Prisoner Club that is advocating on the detainee’s behalf, said in a statement he visited Allan on Tuesday and heard him “stress that he was pursuing his hunger strike”.
Allan, he said, instructed the medical staff to halt intravenous treatment, but then agreed vitamins could be administered in the run-up to Wednesday’s court hearing.
Allan told doctors that unless a solution was found to his plight within 24 hours “he would stop taking anything including vitamins and water,” Bolus said.
The Israeli government sees his hunger strike, which began more than 60 days ago, as a powerful challenge against “administrative detention”, a practice that has drawn criticism from Palestinians and human rights groups but which Israel calls necessary for its national security.
It fears his unconditional release would only encourage several hundred other Palestinian political detainees to refuse food. Highlighting the tensions stoked by the case, confrontations erupted last week outside Barzilai hospital between Arabs and right-wing Jews.
A Barzilai physician said on Monday Allan would likely die in a very short time if no medical assistance was given. Israel’s medical association has ordered doctors not to abide by a new law that could enable them to force-feed a hunger-striker.
Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Mark Heinrich