Israel releases Palestinian hunger striker

Issawi ended his hunger strike after Israel agreed to shorten his sentence to eight months in prison.

    A high-profile Palestinian prisoner who went on a prolonged hunger strike in an Israeli jail has been released.

    Samer al-Issawi, who was been in Israeli jail since July 2012, was released on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh, who was reporting from Jerusalem.

    In his first televised interview after being freed, Issawi said, It is our obligation as freedom fighters to free all the Palestinian political prisoners!"

    Issawi went on 260-day hunger strike in August 2012 in protest of Israel's decision to hand him back an earlier 26-year sentence that would keep him in prison until 2029.

    He was originally captured by the Israeli army in Ramallah in 2002 and was released in 2011 alongside 1,025 other Palestinian prisoners, as part of a parole deal in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier.

    But less than a year later, Issawi was rearrested at the West Bank border, for allegedly violating the terms of his parole.

    According to the Israeli police, Issawi was not supposed to leave Jerusalem, where he lived after his release from prison.

    As punishment, he was handed his original long-term sentence, an additional 17 years in prison.  

    In protest, Issawi went on a hunger strike that lasted for more than eight months until April 2013. His protest attracted widespread attention in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    "He thought that it was too harsh, just for violating his parole," Al Jazeera's El-Shamayleh said. "He began this hunger strike and his health deteriorated."

    El-Shamayleh said Issawi's hunger strike is the longest in documented history of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

    Issawi ended his protest only after Israel agreed to shorten his sentence and give him an eight-month parole violation sentence.

    With his release, Issawi will return to his home in Jerusalem.

    During his hunger strike, Palestinian and Israeli officials have visited him frequently, and worked on a compromise that would pre-empt possible violence his death could provoke.

    Israel holds about 4,800 Palestinians it accuses of committing or planning violence against it. Palestinian officials say 207 Palestinian security prisoners have died in Israeli jails since 1948.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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