2 Palestinians in Israeli jail end hunger strike

IAN DEITCH Associated Press Published:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Two Palestinian prisoners held by Israel have ended their hunger strike of nearly three months and two other hunger strikers have been hospitalized, an Israeli official said Thursday.

The prisoners who ended their fast did so because an Israeli military prosecutor told them that he would not seek to extend their detention at a hearing next week, said their lawyer, Jawad Boulous.

The two prisoners, Tarek Qaadan and Jafar Ezzeldeen, are being held without charges or trial, in so-called administrative detention. This means their detention can be extended repeatedly.

Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for Israel's prison service, said the two started eating on Wednesday, ending a fast that began Dec. 3.

Two other Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike were hospitalized to prevent their health from further deterioration, Weizman said.

The two who were hospitalized, Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, were released in 2011, as part of a swap of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier who had been held by Hamas militants for more than five years.

Both were rearrested last year for violating the conditions of their release, and have staged lengthy hunger strikes since then.

All four refused food, but received vitamins and other nutrients intravenously.

Palestinians have been protesting for days in support of the hunger strikers and have warned of a backlash if any of them died.

Also Thursday, Israel's Health Ministry issued an update on the autopsy of a Palestinian man who died in Israeli custody over the weekend, but said it could still not determine the cause of death.

The ministry quoted pathologists as saying that Arafat Jaradat suffered bruising and fractured ribs close to the time of death and that these signs are typical of someone undergoing resuscitation. The ministry said medics and prison staff spent 50 minutes trying to revive him.

Palestinian officials, citing the autopsy, have said the bruising was a sign that he was tortured, but Israel has denied that claim.

The Israeli pathologists said no signs of other contusions were found, and that toxicology tests were also negative.

Israeli officials initially said Jaradat apparently died of a heart attack.

However, the Israeli pathologists said there were no signs that Jaradat, who was 30, suffered from an illness. They said more tests were needed to determine the exact cause of his death.

The Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Karake, rejected the Israeli findings.

"Our doctor found 10 places on his body with bruises. Israel is trying to hide its crime," he said. "We want an international committee to investigate the death. Otherwise, we accuse Israel of killing Jaradat."

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Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.