RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories - A Palestinian held by Israel without trial has slipped into a coma after a nearly two-month hunger strike, his lawyer said on Friday.
"I was informed yesterday evening by the (Israeli) hospital where he is being held that he had fallen into a coma," Jamil al-Khatib, the attorney of detainee Mohammed Allan, told AFP.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli authorities.
A spokeswoman for the Palestinian Prisoners Club said Allan, a lawyer in his early 30s, was on life support.
"Mohammed Allan fell into a coma and was then placed on an artificial respirator," Amani Sarahneh said.
A spokesman for the Israel Prisons Service said he was not aware of such developments.
Allan, an alleged Islamic Jihad activist who has been held without charge by Israel since November, has been on hunger strike since June 18, the prisoners club said.
His case is a source of growing concern among the Palestinian public.
Allan's lawyer said that Israel intends to force-feed him, a measure likely to further increase Palestinian anger.
The Israeli Medical Association strongly opposes the practice.
"A doctor will not participate in force-feeing a hunger striker," it says in a position paper published on its website.
Forced feeding last resort
An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity said that force-feeding was very much a last resort and required approval by a judge in every case.
"Before forced feeding there are many, many medical processes," he said. "They can give him water and other fluids intravenously. There's no need to go straight to forced feeding." Israeli public radio, reporting from the southern city of Ashkelon where Allan is hospitalised at Barzilai Medical Centre, said an ethics committee has already ruled in favour of intervention.
"Barzilai hospital said earlier this week that if his life would be in danger there would be force-feeding," the reporter said. "That's the reason he was moved from Soroka to Ashkelon." Earlier this month Allan was transferred from Soroka hospital in Beersheva after doctors there objected to carrying out blood tests against his will, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said at the time.
In a statement on Friday the NGO appealed to Barzilai medical staff .
"Medical ethics requires that his doctors act in accordance to their understanding of the patient's will," it said.
"PHR-Israel hopes and believes that the doctors in Barzilai hospital have acted with respect and in accordance with Allan's will."
Red Cross fears
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has visited Allan several times, has warned that he was "at immediate risk" of death.
He has been taking only water throughout his fast and experts say that survival under such conditions is uncertain after two months.
His supporters said that his sight and hearing had become badly impaired lately.
The Israeli radio report said that since becoming unconscious he has been given fluids and salts by intravenous drip.
Palestinians in Israeli prisons regularly go on hunger strike in protest at conditions, particularly those who, like Allan, are held in what Israel calls administrative detention.
On July 30, parliament approved a law allowing prisoners on hunger strike facing death to be force fed, sparking criticism from rights groups and doctors.
That vote came two weeks after Israel freed Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan following a 56-day hunger strike that brought him near death. AUG 15