RAMALLAH: An Israeli-held Palestinian prisoner on a life-threatening hunger strike has agreed to end his fast in return for his early release, his lawyer said yesterday. Under terms of the deal, Samer Issawi, who has intermittently refused food since August 2012, is to be freed exactly eight months after he ends his strike, Jawad Boulos told AFP. The 33-year-old, currently in critical condition in a hospital near Tel Aviv, began taking vitamins again late on Monday after the agreement was reached with the authorities, Boulos said. The deal will allow him to return to his neighbourhood of Issawiya in annexed east Jerusalem.
The Israeli army said "an agreement has been reached” according to which "Issawi will serve 17- and-a-half months starting from the day of his arrest for the violation of the conditions of his release.” He won early release as part of a prisoner swap deal in October 2011, but was rearrested nine months later on July 7 and began refusing food on August 1. In recent weeks, Israel offered him an immediate release if he would accept exile to the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, and even proposed deporting him to an EU member state. But Issawi rejected both those proposals. He was first arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for militant activity in the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was rearrested in July for violating the terms of the agreement by leaving east Jerusalem and travelling to the West Bank.
An Israeli official said he had gone to the West Bank to establish “terror cells” with officials calling for him to serve out the remainder of his original sentence. His health has deteriorated significantly due to his prolonged fast. Israel holds around 4,700 Palestinians in its jails, including 169 in “administrative detention”-a procedure which allows suspects to be held without charge for renewable periods of up to six monthsand 235 minors. Issawi is the last of four Palestinian prisoners who were on extended hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, after two ended their fast in February and a third man from the West Bank was exiled last month to Gaza for 10 years. - AFP