Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters

Israel releases Palestinian hunger striker from 'administrative detention'

Mohammed Allaan called on Palestinians to stay 'united for Al-Aqsa mosque,' a site of tension during the latest unrest

A Palestinian prisoner who staged a 66-day hunger strike in protest over his yearlong detention without charge has been released by Israeli authorities.

Mohammed Allaan, a 31-year-old lawyer, was arrested in November 2014 and held in custody over alleged links to the armed group Islamic Jihad — an affiliation Allaan has denied.

Israel's Supreme Court in August suspended his administrative detention, without charge or trial, amid concern over the impact that his hunger strike had had on his health. But once his condition improved, Allaan was rearrested and his refusal to eat briefly resumed.

His release came late Wednesday after completing a second six-month term. He was taken to a hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem for a medical checkup, local media reported, before being reunited with family and friends in the West Bank village of Einabus. Speaking to reporters, he called his release “a victory.”

Allaan's case drew widespread attention. During his protest, Israel’s parliament passed the controversial “Law to Prevent Harm Caused by Hunger Strikers,” granting authorities the legal right to force-feed prisoners on hunger strike when it is deemed that their lives are in danger.  However, members of the Israeli Medical Association refused to comply, saying that doing so would be considered "torture."

His case brought attention to Israel's administrative detention policy — a controversial form of imprisonment that allows Israeli authorities to detain individuals indefinitely without charge, trial or access to counsel if they are deemed a security threat. 

Since Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, its military has placed thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention. At the end of August 2015, there were 341 Palestinians in Israeli prisons classified as such, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Al-Aqsa mosque tensions

Following his release, Allaan conveyed what he said was a message from Palestinian prisoners on the issue of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, access to which has been a central issue in the recent increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence.

"The prisoners ask that the Palestinian people be united for al-Aqsa Mosque," the Jerusalem Post reported Allaan as saying. "The message is clear — you are worth nothing if harm is caused to Al-Aqsa Mosque."

Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to lift its long-standing ban on Jewish prayer at the site – referred to as the Temple Mount by Jews – have fueled the recent unrest in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israeli cities. Israel has repeatedly denied the allegation.

Jordan, the custodian of the site, last month proposed monitoring the holy site by security cameras in an effort to defuse tensions. Israel praised the idea, saying it would help counter Palestinian claims that it is trying to change the status quo. But some Palestinians said Israel would use the cameras to spy on and arrest people.

Although Israel and Jordan initially said cameras would be installed within days, the plan now appears delayed, with Jordan's King Abdullah II saying they wouldn't be in place for some six weeks.

"To be very clear, there will be no cameras inside the mosque," Abdullah said in remarks broadcast on Jordan's state television on Wednesday evening.

The latest outburst of violence has seen at least nine Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks, at least 75 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire — more than 44 of them said by Israel to be attackers and the remainder killed in clashes with Israeli forces. On Thursday, a Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli forces after allegedly attempting to stab a soldier at a bus station in Gush Etzion settlement near Bethlehem, the Israeli army said.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. Ehab Zahriyeh contributed to this report.

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