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Hunger striker in Israel focus of debate over force-feeding

TEL AVIV, Israel — A Palestinian prisoner who has refused food for 60 days lost consciousness Friday after a battle that pitted Israeli doctors against their government in a dramatic test of a new law that permits force-feeding of hunger strikers.

Despite the new law, two teams of doctors refused to force food down the throat of Mohammed Allan, saying the procedure violated medical ethics. On Friday, doctors connected Allan, 31, to a respirator as he lay shackled to a bed in a hospital in southern Israel, his lawyer, Jamil Khatib, said.

Allan is fasting to protest his nine-month arrest without trial or charges, a measure called administrative detention that Israel uses to detain suspected terrorists. Israel says presenting charges and evidence could jeopardize its network of informants.

The drama recalls similar fights over force-feeding of detainees at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There, U.S. military health workers force-fed as many as 46 detainees during a hunger strike in 2013, and are still tube-feeding an undetermined number of prisoners.

Allan was arrested in November 2014, Khatib said, on suspicion of conducting military activities with the Islamic Jihad. Allan was imprisoned for 30 months in 2006 for his activities with Islamic Jihad, Khatib said.

Israel passed the law permitting force-feeding of prisoners in July after authorities released Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan from administrative detention after he had fasted for 56 days. Hundreds of Palestinians have used hunger strikes to obtain early release or to improve their prison conditions.

On Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan defended the law. The Israeli Medical Association, however, is seeking to have the law overturned.