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Palestinian hunger-striker entering 'critical phase': ICRC

Maher al-Akhras is being held by Israel under administrative detention [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 October, 2020

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The ICRC said it had been 'closely monitoring' the situation, including a visit with Akhras on Thursday

A Palestinian man on hunger strike for more than 85 days since his arrest by Israel is entering a medically "critical phase", the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.

Maher al-Akhras, 49, was arrested near Nablus and placed in administrative detention, a policy that Israel uses to hold suspected militants without charge.

The married father-of-six launched his strike to protest the policy.

He had been arrested several times previously by Israel.

"More than 85 days into the hunger strike, we are concerned about potentially irreversible health consequences," said Yves Giebens, the head of the ICRC's health department in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

"From a medical perspective, he is entering a critical phase," Giebens added in a statement.

The ICRC said it had been "closely monitoring" the situation, including a visit with Akhras on Thursday.

"The ICRC encourages the patient, his representatives and the competent authorities involved to find a solution that will avoid any loss of life," the statement said.

Following his arrest in early July, Akhras was transferred in early September to Kaplan Hospital, south of Tel Aviv.

His lawyers have appealed on multiple occasions to Israel's supreme court for his release, but so far without success.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has demanded his immediate release.

Israel's administrative detention system, inherited from the British mandate, allows the internment of prisoners for renewable periods of up to six months each, without bringing charges.

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.

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