Hunger-striking Palestinian inmate sentenced to 8 months

Samer Issawi convicted of violating parole. Could still be sent to prison to serve remainder of original 26-year sentence

Palestinians holding pictures of Samer Issawi at a protest in Jerusalem on February 19. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinians holding pictures of Samer Issawi at a protest in Jerusalem on February 19. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A hunger-striking Palestinian inmate at the center of several days of protests across the West Bank was sentenced to eight months in prison by an Israeli court on Thursday.

Samer Isawwi, who has gone without food since August 1, was convicted of leaving Jerusalem against the terms of his parole by a magistrates’ court in the capital. His sentence will expire on March 6.

Isawwi, a convicted terrorist who was freed as part of the Gilad Shalit swap deal only to be rearrested seven months ago, could still be sent back to prison for another 16 years to serve out his original sentence, pending a March 21 hearing on the matter, AFP reported.

Thousands of Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces outside the Ofer Prison in the West Bank northwest of Jerusalem on Thursday over the fate of Issawi, who is said to be close to death, and a number of other hunger-striking prisoners.

Dozens of the protesters threw stones at security forces and burned tires. The police dispersed the crowd using tear gas and rubber-coated bullets, injuring five. Palestinian reports later claimed dozens were injured.

Channel 1 journalist Yoram Cohen was hit in the head by a stone and was taken to hospital for medical attention. Channel 10 reporter Roy Sharon and photographer were also injured and received treatment on the spot.

Other protests have also been held across the West Bank over the last several days. On Tuesday, 800 Palestinian inmates launched a one-day solidarity hunger strike with Issawi.

Issawi was previously jailed for a 26-year prison sentence for terrorist activities, but was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange deal that secured the freedom of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. His crimes included opening fire with an AK-47 at an Israeli bus, firing at an Israeli car, and manufacturing pipe bombs used in terror attacks.

He was rearrested in July after entering the West Bank to take his car to a garage.

Under Israeli law, a freed prisoner convicted of another offense resulting in a sentence of three or more months in jail can be ordered to fill out the rest of his term.

On Tuesday Fatah officials warned of an increase in violence in the West Bank if the prisoners were not immediately released. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a solution to prisoners crisis and raised particular concern over their being held in administrative detention without a trial.

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