Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi will end his eight-month-long hunger strike in exchange for an early release from the Israeli prison where he is incarcerated.
Issawi’s attorney, Jawad Bulous, said military prosecutors agreed early Tuesday to release Issawi, provided he serve another eight months in prison. Bulous said that Issawi will end his hunger strike after the deal is signed later Tuesday.
A vocal public campaign spanning Palestinians, international activists and left-wing Israelis has been pressing for the release of Issawi, 32. The campaign garnered increasing media attention as the prisoner’s health derteriorated, prompting demonstrations throughout the West Bank as well as solidarity hunger strikes among other Palestinian inmates.
Defense officials have expressed fear that, were Issawi to die of malnourishment or complications stemming from his strike, his death could spark a serious conflagration in the West Bank.
Those fears were exacerbated in early April, when another Palestinian prisoner, Maysara Abuhamdia, died of cancer, sparking riots among other Palestinians in Israeli prisons and clashes throughout the West Bank between demonstratorsand IDF troops.
The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of failing to provide Abuhamdia with proper medical treatment and alleged that the prison service’s negligence had allowed the cancer in his body to metastasize and ultimately overwhelm him. Israel rejected the claim and said that the prisoner was given all the necessary medical treatment.
Issawi was sentenced to 26 years’ imprisonment in 2002 for his role in a series of shooting attacks on police cars and students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was released in October 2011, one of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was held captive by Hamas for more than five years.
The terms of Issawi’s release barred him from leaving Jerusalem city limits, and when he traveled to the West Bank in July 2012, he was re-arrested and charged with violating those terms. He was then ordered by an Israeli military court to serve the remainder of his original sentence, until 2029.
An Israeli official told Reuters that Issawi’s trip to the West Bank was part of his “continued involvement in attempting to establish terror cells.”
In August, he began his hunger strike, accepting only water and intravenous vitamins.
Earlier this month, in an effort to reach a compromise, Israel offered to deport Issawi to Europe or a UN-member country, but a lawyer for Issawi said he refused to be deported, and a European Union official denied that Israel had officially made the offer to deport him.
In March, Israel released another Palestinian hunger striker, Ayman Sharawneh, on the condition that he remain in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for 10 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.