JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Supporters of a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner clashed with Israeli right-wingers on Wednesday near the hospital where he is being treated.
Israeli mounted police and other officers dispersed the fracas near the hospital and a number of protesters were detained and questioned, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Palestinian Mohammed Allan, 31, an Islamic Jihad activist being held without trial, is on the 56th day of his hunger strike and is being monitored at Barzilai hospital in the southern city of Ashkelon, where he was moved earlier this week.
Some 200 demonstrators supporting Allan said they feared Israel would try to force-feed him, after a law was enacted last month permitting doctors to administer nutrition to hunger strikers against their will to try to keep them alive.
The law has met vehement opposition from Israel's medical association, which considers force-feeding a form of torture and medically risky and it has urged Israeli doctors not to abide by the law.
Barzilai Hospital's director said keeping Allan alive and well was the top consideration.
"We will act in accordance with the patients' rights law and what our ethics allow us to do. Certainly, we will want to preserve his life," Hezi Levy said.
"We intend to take every measure that could bring him back to the sane path of effective nutrition and not to endanger his life," he told Israeli Army Radio.
Israeli media speculated that Allan may have been moved to Barzilai from another hospital because doctors there had refused to force feed him. Levy said he was unaware of any such refusal and said his hospital was experienced in treating hunger strikers and coaxing them back to health.
Israel has long been concerned that hunger strikes by Palestinians in its jails could end in deaths and trigger waves of protests in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Andrew Roche