Israel extends detention of Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – An Israeli court has extended the detention of Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who ended a 172-day hunger strike in August, days before his expected release.

Awawdeh, 40, was due to be released on October 2, but Israel’s magistrate court in Rishon LeZion, near Tel Aviv, ruled on Wednesday that he would be held until at least October 9, his wife told Al Jazeera.

According to prisoners’ rights groups and his family, Awawdeh’s imprisonment was extended under the claim that he attempted to take the mobile phone he had at Assaf Harofeh hospital with him to the Ramla prison clinic where he was transferred.

“We don’t know what will happen with this new case, whether it would be closed on bail, or whether he will be released, or put on trial for this new case,” Dalal, Awawdeh’s wife, said.

“We feel frustration and pain. This is an occupation and it’s not new to us that they are trying to ruin the joy and Khalil’s triumph, in that he seized his freedom from them,” she continued.

The father of four was arrested by Israeli forces from his home in the village of Ithna, south of the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, in December 2021.

He was placed in so-called “administrative detention” – an Israeli policy that allows the indefinite imprisonment of Palestinians without trial or charge, based on “secret information” that is not accessible to the detainee nor his lawyer.

While Israel has claimed the procedure allows authorities to hold “suspects” while continuing to gather evidence, critics and rights groups have said the system is widely abused and denies the “suspects” due process.

Dalal said she has yet to hear from her husband and is praying that he is released soon.

“We hope that it ends on bail, that he doesn’t get a new case against him, and that he is really released after this long battle.”

Awawdeh ended a 172-day hunger strike on August 24 after prison authorities agreed not to renew his detention order, which was due to end on October 2.

After his arrest in December, Awawdeh went on a hunger strike for 111 days. He then broke his fast based on promises by Israeli prison authorities to end his administrative detention. He resumed his hunger strike a week later when authorities reneged on their promise to release him.

By August, his health had seriously deteriorated, amid serious fears that he would die.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) armed resistance group had demanded that Awawdeh be released as part of the conditions of an August 7 ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s three-day bombardment of Gaza, in which 51 Palestinians were killed, including 17 children.

Israel initially arrested Awawdeh on suspicion of being a PIJ “operative”, an allegation his lawyer has denied.

Awawdeh has spent a total of 12 years in Israeli prisons since the early 2000s, including five years in administrative detention, split into two periods.

He is the latest of a number of Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention to have embarked on individual hunger strikes to secure their freedom since late last year.

Hunger strikes have been used by prisoners around the world as a method of non-violent resistance. For Palestinian prisoners, it can draw international attention to their plight, which they hope will put pressure on their jailers and spur a policy change.

Of the approximately 4,650 Palestinian prisoners currently held by Israel, about 740 are currently being held in administrative detention, a number that has increased since March as Israel stepped up its raids in the occupied West Bank.

On September 25, 30 Palestinians held in administrative detention launched an open-ended hunger strike in Israeli prisons to demand their release.