Palestinian hunger striker loses consciousness at Israeli hospital

A Palestinian inmate who has been on a hunger strike for 60 days lost consciousness Friday and was receiving treatment at an Israeli hospital, medical officials said.

Lawyers representing Mohammed Allan had expressed concern that the Israeli prison authorities would use a new law to have their client force-fed. But officials at the hospital where he was being treated said there had been no talk of carrying out the controversial procedure.

Allan lost consciousness in the early hours of the morning when he suffered hallucinations, convulsions and interrupted breathing, said Dr. Hezi Levy, director of the Barzilai Medical Center in southern Israel.

The patient was sedated and placed on a respirator and was receiving vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and fluids, Levy told reporters.

A statement issued by the hospital said Allan was in stable condition, and tests would be carried out to determine the necessary course of treatment.

The law approved by Israel’s parliament last month allows the prison service to seek permission from a judge to force-feed inmates when their lives are in danger, or there is a risk of irreparable harm.

But finding a doctor who would agree to perform the procedure could prove difficult. The Israel Medical Assn. argues that force-feeding is dangerous and amounts to torture.

Allan, a reputed member of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, has been held without charge since November under a legal mechanism known as administrative detention.

His father, Naser Allan, said his son was expecting to be released June 6 and was “crushed” when his detention was extended for an additional six months.

“Mohammed decided that the only way he can win his freedom is to go on hunger strike, which he started on June 16," he told the Los Angeles Times in an interview at his home in the West Bank village of Einabous earlier this week.

The elder Allan did not think the Israeli authorities were willing to release his son because it might encourage other prisoners to take similar action. But he remained hopeful that they could be persuaded to relent without resorting to force-feeding.

“Force-feeding means premeditated execution of the prisoner," he said. "This is a crime, and no doctor will be willing to be involved in that."

Israel's only other option, he said, was to “let him continue with his hunger strike until he dies, and this will also not be good for Israel.”

Israeli authorities are worried that the death of a Palestinian hunger striker in an Israeli jail could spark violence and an international backlash.

On Wednesday, fighting broke out between a group of Allan’s supporters and Israeli right-wingers outside the hospital in Ashkelon, according to Israeli news reports. Police broke up the clashes and arrested several participants on both sides.

On Friday, scores of Allan's supporters demonstrated in Jerusalem, the Associated Press reported.

Special correspondents Sobelman reported from Jerusalem and Abukhater from Einabous. Times staff writer Alexandra Zavis in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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