JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The Israeli parliament approved Thursday a law allowing prisoners on hunger strike facing death to be force fed, a spokesman said, sparking criticism from rights groups and medical experts.
The law, which seeks to prevent imprisoned Palestinian prisoners from pressuring Israel by refusing food, was initially approved in June 2014 at the height of a mass hunger strike of Palestinian detainees, during which dozens were hospitalized.
While the law does not specifically mention Palestinians, Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who led the legislation, said it was necessary since "hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel."
The law, which passed by 46 votes to 40, "will be used only if a doctor determines that the continued hunger strike will create an immediate risk to the life of a prisoner or long-term damage to his health," David Amsalem of the ruling Likud party said.
A Knesset press statement said a court will have to review the "prisoner’s mental state, the dangers of force-feeding via a feeding tube and its invasiveness, the prisoner’s stance on the matter and other considerations."
The court may grant requests to force feed if the prisoner is at risk of doing irreversible damage to their body, or endangering their life.
The statement said that Israeli officials must have used "all means at their disposal" to persuade the prisoner to willing ending their strike before resorting to force-feeding.
But opposition members decried the new measure, with the Joint List party criticizing "a law to torture Palestinian prisoners, aimed at uprooting their legitimate struggle".
Left-wing Hadash party member Dov Khenin said the law was"cruel, dangerous and unnecessary,”a Knesset press release said. more