UN Official Concerned About Palestinian Hunger Strikers' Health And Conditions In Israeli Prisons

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A senior U.N. official expressed concern over the declining health of two Palestinian prisoners in Israel, who have been on a hunger strike for over two months and are in critical condition.

The U.N.'s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said in a statement Thursday that Israel needed to do everything in its power to preserve the health of the prisoners and urged it to find a solution before it is too late.

This follows statements on Wednesday from U.N. Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian Territories Robert Falk, criticizing the conditions in Israeli prisons.

I am appalled by the continuing human rights violations in Israeli prisons and I urge the Government of Israel to respect its international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian prisoners, Falk said. Israel must treat those prisoners on hunger strike in accordance with international standards.

Roughly 1,500 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons have been on a hunger strike since April 17 in protest of indefinite detentions without trial, extended solitary confinement and restricted visitation rights.

Several others, however, have been hunger striking for much longer, including Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, who have both gone without food for over 60 days.

Diab and Halahla have both been held indefinitely without trial. Diab, 27, has been detained since August 2010 and Halahla, 34, since June 2010.

Both men are allegedly associated with the militant group Islamic Jihad, but have not been charged with any crime, nor have Israeli authorities released any information regarding the reasons for their detention.

An Israeli group, Physicians for Human Rights, have said that both men's lives are endangered and that they should be transferred to a civilian hospital, BBC News reported.

Both have stopped co-operating in any way with the Israeli Prison Service doctors. They are not taking vitamins or salts on the IV [intravenous] drip, PHR spokesperson Amani Dayif told BBC News.

Bilal is only drinking water, less than a liter per day. He's in danger of cardiac arrest. There are signs that Thaer might have an infection in his lung. Both should be transferred to a proper hospital and need constant monitoring, she added.

Israeli Prison Service spokesperson Sivan Weizman said Diab and Halahla were both receiving proper medical care and suggested their lives were in their own hands, Reuters reported.

We are trying to talk to them to get them to eat. In the end, it's their choice, Weizman told Reuters.

There are over an estimated 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, over 300 of which are being held indefinitely without a trial, a practice which the IPS refers to as administrative detention.

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