Israel re-arrests Palestinian hunger striker

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2015 11:20 AM
Israel re-arrests Palestinian hunger striker

JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian prisoner who nearly died during a 66-day hunger strike resumed his protest Wednesday after he was re-arrested following his release from an Israeli hospital.

The move sparked renewed Palestinian outrage after days of unrest at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site and a spurt of violence that killed an Israeli motorist on the Jewish New Year. The unrest has raised fears of a new outbreak of heavy violence in the holy city.

Supporters of Mohammed Allan said he was detained in a hospital courtyard in the southern city of Ashkelon just moments after being discharged. Allan had been hospitalized for the past month after suffering brain damage and other health issues during his hunger strike.

His father, Nasser Allan, said his son had resumed the hunger strike. "This means they want to kill him," he said. "They know he is very weak, and they know if they don't release him he will resume his strike and that puts his life at real risk."

Allan staged the hunger strike to protest Israel's controversial practice of "administrative detention," which allows it to hold suspected militants without charge for months at a time. Allan has been held since last November under the procedure.

Allan could also become the first test of a new law, passed narrowly in July, which allows Israel to force feed a hunger striker if his life is in danger, even if the prisoner refuses. Israel's medical establishment has denounced the law as inhumane.

During his prolonged hunger strike, Allan was not force-fed, which entails inserting a feeding tube into the stomach. He was, however, given intravenous fluids, vitamins and nutrients as his condition deteriorated.

The Israeli Supreme Court suspended the detention order last month and released Allan while he was hospitalized. But it did not specify what would happen to Allan if he recovered. His lawyer, Jamil Khatib, said he would appeal Wednesday's arrest, claiming authorities were required to review the case before detaining him again.

In a statement, Israel's Shin Bet security agency said it had decided to re-arrest Allan in light of "intelligence information" that determined he would "pose a danger to the peace and security of the region."

The security agency did not elaborate, but noted that his detention order is in effect until Nov. 4, raising the possibility that he could be released after that.

Israel accuses the 31-year-old Allan of links to Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group that has carried out scores of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers. Allan, who spent three years in prison on charges of involvement with the group, has said he is no longer affiliated with it.

The Arab civil rights group Adalah, which petitioned the court on Allan's behalf, said the new arrest was a "random and vindictive act."

During his hunger strike, Allan gained widespread attention and sympathy with the Palestinian public. The new arrest threatened to add to tensions already heightened by the recent days of violence in Jerusalem.

Most of the unrest has swirled around Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site — a hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims.

Jews call the site the Temple Mount because it was where the biblical temples stood. Muslims revere it as the Noble Sanctuary — home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the iconic gold-topped Dome of the Rock. The spot is a frequent flashpoint of violence.

Quiet returned to the site Wednesday after three days of clashes between Muslims and Israeli forces throughout the Jewish new year holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Israeli police deployed heavily at the entrance to the compound, but were careful not to get too close to the mosque.

Israel captured the site in the 1967 Mideast war. Under a longstanding arrangement, Jews are allowed to visit the compound, but not pray there. Jordan, an Arab country with a peace agreement with Israel, serves as the site's custodian.

Larger than usual numbers of Jewish visitors in recent days had fed recurring rumors that Jews were plotting to take over the site.

Police had entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in previous days to disperse protesters who had holed up while hurling rocks, concrete blocks and firebombs at officers. The Israeli response sparked condemnations across the Arab world and concern that the tensions could spiral out of control.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the clashes in particularly harsh language, insisting that none of Jerusalem's holy sites belonged to Israel.

"They are all ours and we will not let them desecrate it with their filthy feet," he said. "We will protect Jerusalem and will protect our Christian and Muslim holy sites. We will not leave our homeland. We will remain holding every atom of soil in this homeland."

Israelis, meanwhile, have been up in arms following an increase in Palestinian stone-throwing attacks on Israeli vehicles, including one that killed an Israeli motorist as he drove home in Jerusalem Sunday night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting late Tuesday, where he vowed tougher measures to curb the violence. On Wednesday, he visited the site where the 64-year-old Israeli man died. He also toured a West Bank highway that is frequently targeted by stone throwers.

"We are changing policy. The situation that exists is unacceptable and we plan to give soldiers and police officers tools to act forcefully against those who throw stones and firebombs," Netanyahu said. "This rock was one rock too many. We declare war on the rock throwers, the firebomb throwers and the other outlaws."

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Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin contributed from Jerusalem.