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Palestinians protest Israeli detention policy

From Kareem Khadder, CNN
updated 2:46 PM EDT, Tue May 1, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bilal Diab and Tha'er Halahlah will appeal their detention before the Supreme Court
  • Their supporters clashed with Israeli military
  • They are opposed to the policy of administrative detention

(CNN) -- Palestinians clashed with the Israeli military Tuesday amid protests over a controversial Israeli detention policy ahead of a related court hearing.

West Bank residents Bilal Diab, 27, and Tha'er Halahlah, 33, have become the faces of the protests as they entered the 64th day of a hunger strike while in Israeli custody. In the past two weeks, 1,500 other Palestinian prisoners in Israel have followed their example, officials say.

The prisoners are protesting Israel's policy of administrative detention, which allows authorities to detain people indefinitely without charge.

Diab and Halahlah will appeal their detention before the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, where they will argue for their freedom because they have not been charged with a crime. They have been in custody for nine months and 22 months, respectively.

A similar appeal to the military court a week ago was rejected, said Jamal Khatib, a lawyer representing the pair.

"Both Diab and Halahlah are on their 64th day of hunger strike, and both can die at any given time," Khatib said.

Their protest has stirred unrest.

At the West Bank border crossing between Beitunya and Ofer military prison, Palestinian protesters threw rocks while the Israeli military used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Four people were injured.

Diab, Halahlah and nine other administrative detainees have been moved from Israeli prisons to a civilian hospital where their health is deteriorating, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society, a group advocating for prisoners' rights.

Diab's brother Bassam, himself a former prisoner, said hunger strikes are the only weapons to end the practice of administrative detention.

Of the more than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, more than 300 are held under administrative detention.

Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza called Tuesday for the men's immediate release and promised that any harm to them will bring consequences for Israel.

Islamic Jihad considers Diab and Halahlah members of the party, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and United States.

Sivan Weizman, spokeswoman of the Israeli Prison Service, denied any mistreatment of the prisoners and said some prisoners have been moved to hospitals, but their medical situations are stable.

"We are talking about 1,500 prisoners who are on hunger strike. There is no change by the Israeli Prison Service in handling of the situation. An Israeli Prison Service committee has completed their meetings with the prisoners and now making their recommendations and should be published in few days," Weizman said.

Mahmoud Zawahreh, a popular committee activist who was participating in the protest outside Ofer military prison, said he was surprised by the lack of international opposition to the Israeli detention policies.

"We call upon the international community to work in solidarity towards those prisoners in ending their administrative detention, who are suffering at all costs being inside Israeli jails," Zawahreh said.

In February, Khader Adnan ended a 66-day strike after his sentence was commuted, and last month, female prisoner Hana Shalabi was deported to Gaza after refusing to eat for 44 days.

Both Adnan and Shalabi were being held in administrative detention for suspected terrorist activity, according to the Israeli government.

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