- Associated Press - Thursday, February 9, 2012

JERUSALEM In a high-stakes gamble, an imprisoned member of a Palestinian militant group has waged a hunger strike for almost two months, trying to draw attention to Israel’s military justice system and its treatment of detainees who can be held without charge for lengthy periods.

Khader Adnan, 33, has refused food for 55 days, making his hunger strike the longest ever waged by a Palestinian detainee.

With his condition rapidly deteriorating, Israeli authorities, who consider him a terrorist, are nonetheless scrambling to keep him alive. His death could turn the previously obscure Mr. Adnan into a Palestinian hero and set off new violence.

Mr. Adnan, a member of the armed group Islamic Jihad, has lost 60 pounds and now weighs about 140 pounds. His skin is discolored, his hair has fallen out, he cannot walk, and he has been shackled to his bed, said lawyers and his wife, Randa, who have seen him in a series of Israeli hospitals.

He is drinking water that is occasionally enhanced with electrolytes and vitamins he needs to keep him alive. His condition is considered severe.

The protest could not only cost Mr. Adnan his life but also have political implications.

Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group that has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, has vowed to punish Israel if Mr. Adnan dies.

The group could fire rockets into Israel from its stronghold in the Gaza Strip, where it has recently built up a powerful arsenal of new weapons.

Mr. Adnan was a spokesman for Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. It isn’t known if he directly participated in attacks on Israelis, and officials would not say what he is suspected of.

Mr. Adnan is being held under a policy known as “administrative detention,” said his attorney, Tamar Peleg-Sryck.

The system allows Israel to hold militant suspects without charge based on secret information that is not shared with lawyers. It is generally used in cases deemed high-risk.

Mr. Adnan is being held under guard at an Israeli hospital, and prison officials say they are watching his condition closely.

The prison service declined comment Thursday, but officials have said in the past that they have permission to force-feed Mr. Adnan if necessary.

Mr. Adnan’s lawyers appealed the detention order Thursday at a special hearing in the hospital, said Mahmoud Hassan, one of his attorneys.

There was no ruling, and the judge could take a week to give his decision.

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