Palestinian prisoner gives up 250-day hunger strike after deal with Israel


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The Independent Online

One of the most high profile Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel has put an end to a 250-day hunger strike after reaching a deal with the Jewish state that will see him serve another eight months in jail.

Samer Issawi was sustained by vitamins and other supplements throughout his protest during which time he refused regular food and turned down a proposal to exile him. His cause has been taken up enthusiastically by Palestinians, many of whom consider the so-called security prisoners as national heroes. Throughout the West Bank and Gaza, several people have been seen wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Issawi's face.

There has been genuine concern among Israeli officials that Issawi's death would have led to serious unrest in the occupied Palestinians, especially given that, with a few exceptions, the current security situation is considered benign.

Issawi, 32, was initially sentenced to 30 years in 2002 for, according to Israel, making pipe bombs during the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising. He was released in 2011 as part of the deal to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed by Hamas after five years being held in Gaza. Issawi was one of 1,027 Palestinians to be freed as part of the deal.

Like several others released under the Shalit deal, Issawi was re-arrested last year for alleged breaches of his initial release conditions, and later his initial sentence was re-imposed.

His hunger strike has garnered support at the highest levels of the Palestinian political order. In February, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wrote to the United Nations Security General Ban Ki-moon to highlight Issawi's case, and those of three others who began a hunger strike. President Abbas specifically complained that the four men were being held with charge.

Later that month, a court in Jerusalem re-sentenced him to eight months in prison for breaching the terms of his release, specifically for leaving East Jerusalem and visiting the West Bank. Under that sentence - given time already served - he would have been released on 6 March, but would still have faced further sentencing in a military court.

The deal agreed between Issawi and the Israelis earlier today  will see him serve another eight months - as part of an overall 18 month sentence - before being released in December.