By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) – A Palestinian prisoner on Tuesday ended a hunger strike that lasted nearly five months after Israel agreed not to extend his detention, his family and Palestinian officials said, although Israeli officials did not confirm a deal had been made.
Hisham Abu Hawash, 40, was arrested by Israel in October 2020 and began his hunger strike in protest of his detention without charge.
An Israeli security official speaking on condition of anonymity described him as an operative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group and said he was “arrested for involvement in terrorist activity”.
Abu Hawash was hospitalized in December. The Islamic Jihad threatened to launch attacks against Israel if he died, raising concerns of renewed violence after an 11-day war in May between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
“We congratulate the free (man), Abu Hawash,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh posted on Twitter, “for gaining his freedom by force of his will.”
Abu Hawash’s lawyer Jawad Boulos said Israel had agreed not to extend his detention beyond Feb. 26. Egypt helped mediate the deal, Palestinian officials said. Dozens gathered outside Abu Hawash’s home in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron to celebrate.
Abu Hawash accepted the terms, his family said.
Spokespeople for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Shin Bet domestic security agency, the military and the Prisons Authority did not immediately comment.
Abu Hawash is one of hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli “administrative detention,” in which suspects in militant activities can be held for up to 60 days without charge. That period can be extended if a court approves.
Israel says such measures are required to prevent violence in cases where there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, or where going to court would risk exposing the identity of secret informants.
The United Nations, European Union and rights groups have criticised the practice.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Additidonal reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)