RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Israel's Supreme Court has ruled against an appeal for release from two Palestinian prisoners who have been on a hunger strike for more than two months, their lawyer said Monday.
Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, members of Islamic Jihad, began the hunger strike Feb. 28 to protest their administrative detention without charge or trial. Israel uses the policy of administrative detention, a remnant of the pre-1948 British mandate period, to keep Palestinians in prison on charges not known to the prisoners or their lawyers.
The pair's attorney, Jawad Boulus, said the court decided five days after hearing the appeal not to grant the two prisoners freedom.
The Israeli human rights group Physicians for Human Rights condemned the ruling, saying that because of the prisoners' long hunger strike the ruling “is the effective equivalent of handing down a death sentence.”
“This ruling renders even more evident the enormous costs of the occupation and Israeli control over Palestinians, which destroys any semblance of justice," the group added. "The unacceptable standards that were once practiced by military courts alone are gradually becoming the same shameful norm by which the Supreme Court itself issues its own rulings.”
Islamic Jihad said it would hold the government of Israel “responsible for any consequences” if any of the prisoners die.
An Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman said Diab was admitted to a hospital in Israel to check on his health, while Halahleh was admitted to Ramleh prison clinic.
An additional six administrative detainees, out of 320, have been on hunger strike for several weeks to almost two months, while 1,600 other security prisoners out of around 4,500 prisoners in Israeli jails are in their third week of hunger strikes.
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel called on “Israeli leaders at the highest echelons to act swiftly to bring about a solution that will save the lives of the detainees on hunger strike and uphold their rights.”
Photo: The mother of Palestinian prisoner Bilal Diab holds a poster of her son, who is on a hunger strike. Credit: Mohammed Ballas / Associated Press.