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Jews and Arabs clash over ailing Palestinian hunger striker

AFP , Tuesday 9 Aug 2016

Jewish and Arab protesters traded punches Tuesday outside an Israeli hospital where a Palestinian prisoner is on hunger strike, and police said they made arrests on both sides.

Bilal Kayed has been refusing food for 56 days in protest at his detention without trial by Israeli occupation authorities and was moved from prison to Barzelai hospital, in the southern city of Ashkelon, when his health deteriorated markedly.

The Physicians for Human Rights says his vision is failing, he has difficulties standing and that doctors have warned he could be at risk of a stroke.

Palestinian officials say he has kidney problems.

On Tuesday Arab and some Jewish supporters of Kayed picketed the hospital, some carrying banners reading "Administrative detention is not legal," a reference to an Israeli practice allowing detainees to be held without trial for renewable six-month periods.

Arab Israeli MPs were among the protesters.

Right-wing Israelis, some shouting "death to terrorists", staged a counter-demonstration and the two sides exchanged punches, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.

When police intervened, the right-wingers threw rocks at officers.

Police said they arrested seven Jews and three Arabs suspected of public disorder, assaulting police and interfering with police in the performance of their duty.

They did not say if the Arabs arrested were Israeli citizens or Palestinians from annexed east Jerusalem, who have free access to Israel.

Kayed was to have been released in June after serving a 14-and-a-half-year sentence for activities in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, labelled a terrorist organisation by Israeli occupation authorities, the European Union and the United States.

Instead, Israeli occupation authorities ordered he remain in custody until further notice.

Israel says administrative detention allows authorities to hold suspects while continuing to gather evidence, while Palestinians, human rights groups and members of the international community have criticised the system.

Of more than 7,500 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails, about 700 are being held under administrative detention, Palestinian rights groups say.

Palestinians have regularly gone on hunger strike in protest at their detention.

The current wave of protests by Palestinians and repression by Israeli occupation forces started in late July when toddler Ali Dawabsha was burned to death and three other Palestinians were severely injured after their house in the occupied West Bank was set on fire by Israeli settlers.

Settlement-building, racial discrimination, confiscation of identity cards, long queues at checkpoints, as well as daily clashes and the desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, describe Palestinians' daily suffering.

The anger of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem has increased in the last three years after the Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The surge in violence has been fuelled by Palestinians' frustration over Israel's 48-year occupation of land they seek for an independent state, and the expansion of settlements in those territories which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinian leaders say a younger generation sees no hope for the future living under Israeli security restrictions and with a stifled economy. The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in April 2014.

*The story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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