Hunger strike wins again
The news report from Reuters is followed by an article by Barak Ravid which gives details of the deal and interpretation of the authorities’ decision.
Palestinian prisoner in deal with Israel to end fast
By Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning, Reuters
April 22, 2013
RAMALLAH – A Palestinian prisoner held by Israel has agreed to end an on-off hunger strike on Monday which lasted for more than eight months in exchange for an early release, Palestinian officials told Reuters.
The fast by Samer al-Issawi, 32, from a suburb of Jerusalem, had stoked weeks of street protests and concerns by Israel that his death might lead to mass unrest.
Issawi agreed on 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 organization, 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.
Israel convicted Issawi of opening fire on an Israeli bus in 2002, but released him in 2011 along with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier held hostage by the Hamas Islamist group 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.
Both Palestinian and Israeli officials have visited Issawi frequently in recent weeks to reach a compromise and pre-empt the violence his death could provoke.
The Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, has said it will try to prevent any mass uprising against Israel and has renounced violence in its quest for statehood.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is keen to give U.S. President Barack Obama a chance to renew stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks after his visit to the region last month.
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.
Samer Issawi was released from prison in the Shalit deal and arrested again 10 months ago after violating parole; he will serve another 8 months in prison and have to remain near his East Jerusalem neighborhood afterward.
By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
By April 23, 2013
Fearing that hunger-striking Palestinian security prisoner Samer Issawi might die behind bars, Israel has agreed to free him on parole, senior officials in Jerusalem confirmed on Tuesday.
Issawi, who was released from prison in the 2011 deal to free Gilad Shalit, was arrested 10 months ago after violating his parole by leaving the Jerusalem area. Also, the Shin Bet security service said it had information showing that Issawi intended to return to terror.
Issawi, 32, went on a hunger strike off and on for more than 210 days. His life in danger, he was hospitalized several times.
Concerns have increased over the impact Issawi’s death in prison might have on the mood in the West Bank. This came after the death of security prisoner Arafat Jaradat in Megiddo Prison and the riots that broke out afterward, as well as the death of another security prisoner from cancer. Also, European Union officials have put pressure on Israel due to Issawi’s health.
Over the past few weeks, talks have been held among the Israel Prison Service, the Public Security Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Shin Bet and the Prime Minister’s Office to try to end the crisis. One conclusion was to negotiate with Issawi’s lawyers.
According to a senior Israeli official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the Issawi deal two days ago after consulting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. The ministers were presented with the following conditions for Issawi’s release:
1. Issawi will serve another eight months from the time the deal was signed, and will have served 18 months since he was arrested for violating his parole.
2. Issawi will immediately cease his hunger strike.
3. After he is freed from prison, Issawi will promise not to leave the area around the village where he lives, the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. He will be forbidden from entering the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and will promise not to maintain contacts with members of terror groups or anyone carrying out terror activities.
4. If Issawi violates his parole again or commits a criminal act that entails a punishment greater than three months in prison, his suspended sentence of 14 and a half years in prison will be activated.
The senior official added that the ministers were unsure about the deal for two reasons. First, Issawi had already been freed in the Shalit deal and had violated his parole. Second, Issawi’s second release would occur following his hunger strike, which could set a precedent encouraging other prisoners to take similar steps in the future.