Issawi signs deal to end his 277-day hunger strike

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Palestinian protesters hold a placard with a portrait made from bread of Samer Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for over eight months, during a gathering fence to mark Prisoners' Day in downtown Ramallah on 17 April 2013. (Photo: AFP - Abbas Momani)

Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Updated 5:11 pm: Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi has ended his more than eight month-long hunger strike Tuesday after signing a deal with Israel which will see him return to his home in Jerusalem, his lawyer and a Palestinian official said.

Issawi, who had gone 277 days without food, agreed to a deal brokered by Israeli and Palestinian officials to serve eight months for allegedly violating bail conditions for an earlier release, after which he will be freed to his Jerusalem home, Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian prisoner organisation, told Reuters.

Issawi's lawyer and sister conveyed the offer just before midnight to his bedside in Israel's Kaplan hospital, where he had been under Israeli guard and receiving intravenous vitamins but was refusing food.

The agreement was signed at the hospital Tuesday. Both his uncle and brother were present at the signing, his lawyer said.

"There is no way to express the amount of joy I feel right now," the prisoner's mother, Layla, said in a TV interview with Al Mayadeen after the agreement was signed.

Israeli officials reportedly agreed to the deal after Issawi said Monday that he would boycott any future court hearings and refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israeli courts.

Issawi, 33, has become a symbol of resistance for Palestinians, who have regularly taken to the streets to show popular support for his protest action and demand his release.

Israel convicted Issawi of opening fire on an Israeli bus in 2002 as a member of the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was released in 2011 along with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier held by Hamas in Gaza.

He was re-arrested last July after Israel said he violated the terms of his release by crossing from his native East Jerusalem to the West Bank, both majority-Palestinian areas, and ordered him to stay in jail until 2029 – his original sentence.

An Israeli official told Reuters last week that Issawi had crossed into the West Bank as part of "continued involvement in attempting to establish terror cells."

Monday's deal dispenses with conspiracy charges and will see Issawi serve eight months for leaving Jerusalem – a decision Palestinian officials say will likely be endorsed by an Israeli military court on Tuesday.

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

(Ma’an, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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