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Issawi signs pact with Israel, ends hunger strike

Ma'an News Agency

Long term hunger striker Samer Issawi ended his protest action on April 23 after signing an agreement with Israel which guarantees his release, his lawyer Jawad Bolous said. The deal will see Issawi released to his hometown of Jerusalem after serving eight months in jail, after 266 days of refusing food in protest against his rearrest by Israeli forces. The agreement was signed at Kaplan Medical Center in Israel where Issawi is currently being held, and both his uncle and brother were present at the signing, Bolous said.

Israeli officials reportedly agreed to the deal after Issawi said that he would boycott any future court hearings and refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israeli courts. Hani Issawi, the prisoner's uncle, told Ma'an News Agency the agreement was written at Israel's Ofer military court. Samer Issawi "feels he achieved a victory thanks to his adherence to principles he believed in," his uncle said.

Issawi's victory was partly due to his rejection of Israeli efforts to deport him and so he "achieved a basic Palestinian goal of resisting exile and adherence to the right of return," his uncle added. Israeli authorities had raised several proposals to try and end Issawi's hunger strike, including deporting him to Gaza for 10 years, sentencing him to five years in Israeli prison and deporting him to Europe, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society Qadura Fares said this week. Issawi refused all offers by Israel, insisting on being released to his home in Jerusalem.

Issawi, 33, was first arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for military activities on behalf of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was granted amnesty in the Oct. 2011 prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas. but was rearrested on July 7 and accused of violating his release terms by leaving East Jerusalem and entering the West Bank. He has been on hunger strike since Aug. 1 to demand his release.

Issawi's hunger strike has become a symbol of resistance for Palestinians, galvanizing popular support for prisoners jailed in Israel. He will be released from Israel detention on Dec. 23.

From Ma'an News Agency, April 24

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