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Former hunger-striking Balboul brothers released from Israeli prison

The brothers eventually ended their hunger strikes on 21 September along with fellow hunger-striker Malik Al-Qadi.

The Balboul brothers were released from an Israeli prison yesterday after more than 75 days on hunger strike.

Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe told Ma’an that Israeli authorities released Muhammad and Mahmoud at the Salim checkpoint of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank.

They had been held for more than five months.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received the brother at the presidency’s headquarters in Ramallah in the central West Bank shortly after their release, in a meeting attended by Qaraqe and Ramallah Mayor Laila Ghannam.

After the meeting, the Balboul brothers made their way to their home in the Old City of Bethlehem where crowds of people awaited their return in Manger Square.

Mahmoud Balboul addresses crowds at the reception for him and his brother's in front of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem's Manger Square on 8th December 2016 [maannews]

Mahmoud Balboul addresses crowds at the reception for him and his brother’s in front of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem’s Manger Square on 8th December 2016 [maannews]

Muhammad, 26, and Mahmoud, 23, were initially detained during an overnight raid on June 9, and were subsequently sentenced to six months of administrative detention — an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence.

Muhammad and Mahmoud launched a hunger strike on 7 and 5 July respectively, going without food for 77 and 79 days.

The brothers eventually ended their hunger strikes on 21 September along with fellow hunger-striker Malik Al-Qadi, following a decision by Israeli authorities not to extend their administrative detention.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said on Wednesday that the Balboul family had “sacrificed and given so much to Palestine,” emphasising that the brothers are sons of Ahmad Balboul, a leader of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the group, who was killed by undercover Israeli forces in 2008.

Their 15-year-old sister Nuran was also detained for three months this year. Israeli forces accused her of possessing a knife, an allegation that the family and others vehemently deny.

Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners Anas Shadid and Ahmad Abu Farah, both residents of the southern occupied West Bank village of Dura, continued their hunger strikes against administrative detentions as of yesterday, in spite of their critical conditions. Shadid, 20, and Abu Farah, 29, have gone without food for 74 and 75 days, respectively.

The European Union representative in Jerusalem and Ramallah released a statement yesterday condemning Israel’s policy of administrative detention, highlighting the cases of Shadid and Abu Farah.

“There are now over 700 Palestinians, including at least three minors being held in administrative detention, a number which has more than doubled within the last 18 months,” the statement said.

“The EU, Switzerland, and Norway call for the full respect of international human rights obligations towards all prisoners. Detainees have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention, must be granted access to legal assistance, and be subject to a fair trial.”

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