IDF deploys Iron Dome amid fears of escalation if hunger-striker dies

Muhammad Allan's health improves, but security cautions taken nonetheless

Soldiers stand next to an Iron Dome battery. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Soldiers stand next to an Iron Dome battery.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The health condition of a Palestinian security prisoner on hunger strike for more than two months began to improve on Thursday, as the IDF raised its alertness level in the South and deployed Iron Dome batteries outside Ashdod and Beersheba out of fear of an escalation if the prisoner’s health takes a turn for the worse.
Muhammad Allan, an Islamic Jihad operative from the West Bank, had been hunger-striking in protest of his detention without trial. The High Court of Justice ruled Wednesday to suspend his detention due to his failing health, which includes brain damage.
Allan was placed on a respirator and put under sedation Wednesday night after a decline in his condition, but in a press conference Thursday, Barzilai Medical Center director Dr. Hezi Levy said Allan’s condition has improved significantly since Wednesday night, and that he is conscious and breathing on his own, and able to communicate with those around him.
“From a medical perspective I am pleased that he is on the right path,” he added.
Dr. Levy’s tone was markedly more optimistic than the day before, when doctors carried out an MRI on Allan and ruled that he is suffering from brain damage, though Levy said it was not clear if the damage was permanent.
Levy said that Allan had been informed about the High Court’s decision and that doctors have recommended to him that he start to eat, beginning with just a small amount of sugars and slowly progressing to solid foods once his body is able to absorb them.
“I hope that he will change his approach and begin accepting the treatment we are giving him and begin eating, otherwise we can’t help him,” Levy said.
Despite the reported improvements in Allan’s health, IDF security officials confirmed Thursday the deployment of the Iron Dome batteries and said that the increased readiness is due to fears of an escalation if Allan dies.
After Wednesday's High Court ruling, Allan's lawyer Jameel Khatib said, “The story is over, administrative detention is canceled, and therefore there is no strike.”
But a hospital spokeswoman said it would not have been possible for Allan to make such a decision, since he was not conscious or aware of his surroundings.
Allan began his hunger strike after he was arrested by security forces earlier this year and placed on administrative detention. He has yet to be charged with a crime.
Administrative detention is a controversial procedure in which suspects believed to be involved in security crimes are kept in custody for months at a time – and potentially indefinitely if the order is renewed by a judge. Authorities do not need to charge them with a crime or show them the evidence or allegations against them. Most Palestinian hunger strikers in recent years have launched their campaigns to protest the practice. One of the most famous of these was Khader Adnan, also a member of Islamic Jihad, who in 2011 went on hunger strike for 66 days and became famous in a story that grabbed headlines around the world.
In the court ruling, justices ruled that due to his diminished health, Allan’s family members could visit him without restriction, as if he were not a detainee.
The High Court’s decision on Wednesday was met with anger from a number of Israeli politicians, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud), the sponsor of a recently-passed bill allowing the force-feeding of hunger strikers.
“The decision to release the terrorist Allan was first and foremost due to the stance of the Israel Medical Association, and their head Dr. (Leonid) Eidelman, who made the decision that they would not treat hunger strikers until they have lost consciousness and are in danger of suffering irreversible damage.”
Erdan criticized the doctors for refusing to treat Allan against his will, which doctors and other medical officials have said would represent a violation of medical ethics and would only be allowed if the patient loses consciousness and is in danger of dying.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.