Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan has ended his 66-day hunger strike, the longest carried out by any Palestinian prisoner, after Israel agreed to set him free on April 17.
Mr Adnan has refused food since December 18, one day after he was detained without charge. He had lost more than 40 per cent of his body weight over the past nine weeks.
Mr Adnan’s wife, Randa Mussa hailed the deal as a “victory” for her husband. “He forced the occupation to give in to his demands and I hope he returns safe to us,” she said.
“The Israeli court decided to release Khader Adnan on April 17 and based on that he ended his hunger strike,” Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqaa said.
Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the agreement meant “if there’s no new evidence against him, he will be released from custody on April 17.”
Mr Adnan, 33, was detained on December 17 and began refusing food a day later to protest his detention without charge and his alleged mistreatment by interrogators.
His protest, already the longest hunger strike carried out by any Palestinian prisoner, has attracted international attention and thrown a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, a military procedure which allows suspects to be held without charge.
Israeli officials described Mr Adnan as a “terrorist” from the radical Islamic Jihad movement, although he has never been charged with any offence, nor has any evidence against him been made public.
In January, a military court handed down a four-month administrative detention order against Mr Adnan, which he appealed in an unusual court session earlier this month held at his hospital bed in northern Israel.
But a military court last week rejected his appeal, prompting him to turn to Israel’s top court.
Doctors from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel who met with Mr Adnan in recent days had warned that his health was failing and that he faced “immediate danger of death” if he continued to refuse food.
Rights groups have also condemned the conditions in which Mr Adnan is being held at Ziv hospital in the northern town of Safed, where he is shackled to the bed by chains on both legs and on one arm.
His case has sparked demonstrations across the Palestinian territories, with thousands of people taking part in protests on Tuesday in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin, Hebron and Ramallah. A protest was also scheduled in Gaza City.
In Ramallah, shops shut down as part of a general strike in solidarity with Mr Adnan, and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were also on hunger strike in support of the detainee.
Palestinian officials had warned that Mr Adnan’s death in custody could spark a violent backlash, and a spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service said they were aware of the “implications” of such a development.
On Monday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he had sent a message to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other top diplomats urging them to put pressure on Israel over the case.
“I asked them all to intervene in Adnan’s case. They must apply pressure on Israel to release him,” he said.