Several arrests as Jewish, Arab protestors clash over Islamic Jihad hunger striker


Israeli police made at least 15 arrests in Ashkelon yesterday as Arab and Jewish protestors clashed over the fate of a hunger striker affiliated to Islamic Jihad, who is hospitalized in the city.

Islamic Jihad member Mohammed Allan was admitted to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon last week. He had been on a hunger strike for more than 50 days and for the first time doctors had been asked to comply with a new law which would allow force-feeding under some circumstances. The legislation has sparked an ethical debate among Israeli medical authorities and it is thought that staff at both Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva and Barzilai refused to force-feed Allan on ethical grounds.

However, Allan lost consciousness on Friday and his condition was described as life-threatening. According to Israel Radio, his situation has stabilized since then and he is now being administered intravenous fluids and minerals. His deterioration sparked yesterday’s protests in which Arab Israeli supporters outside Barzilai Hospital demanded that Allan be released from administrative detention due to his fragile condition. However, a counter demonstration of Jewish Israelis quickly appeared, opposing such support for a suspected terrorist.

Around 200 people were involved in the demonstrations, with the two sides kept apart by police who made several arrests. However, the focus of the protests soon shifted to Ashkelon Junction at the entrance to the city, where police refused to allow passage of four busloads of additional Arab demonstrators heading for the hospital. Dozens of people got off the busses and clashed with police, who used tear gas and pepper spray at the scene. The junction was temporarily close to traffic.

Palestinian prisoners have long favoured hunger strikes as a form of protest, especially against their detention without trial. Israeli authorities wish to prevent Palestinian deaths in custody and have previously set detainees free to avoid the prospect. Just last month, Israel released Islamic Jihad activist Khader Adnan who had been on a 56-day hunger strike.