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Israel frees top Palestinian lawmaker after year behind bars

Hamas-linked parliament speaker Aziz Dweik was arrested in sweeps to find three murdered Israeli teens

Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dweik (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dweik (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Israel released Tuesday the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, an AFP reporter said, after almost a year in prison following an army crackdown over the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.

Aziz Dweik, the Hamas-linked speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was arrested on June 16, 2014, as Israel staged a massive manhunt for three Israeli teenagers who were snatched from a road in the southern West Bank by Palestinian terrorists, operatives of Hamas.

During the search, which lasted until June 30 when their bodies were found, Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians, most of them members of Hamas.

Palestinians responded to the crackdown — the biggest in a decade — with a surge of rocket fire at Israel’s southern town and cities from the Gaza Strip, the Islamist movement’s stronghold, which ultimately led to a 50-day war in and around the coastal enclave, the third in six years.

According to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, 12 of the 130 MPs in the PLC are being held by Israel; that number included Dweik.

The council has not met since 2007 following a major rift between the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and its Hamas rival, which saw the Islamist movement forcibly expelling Fatah loyalists from Gaza.

In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, Israeli soldiers arrest Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the long-defunct Palestinian parliament and a senior Hamas figure, at his home during a military operation to search for three missing Israeli teenagers, in the West Bank city of Hebron (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)
In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, Israeli soldiers arrest Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the long-defunct Palestinian parliament and a senior Hamas figure, at his home during a military operation to search for three missing Israeli teenagers, in the West Bank city of Hebron (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Earlier on Tuesday, the Palestinian government warned that it held Israel responsible for hunger-striking prisoner Khader Adnan, who Ramallah said was “in danger of dying” after 36 days of protest.

“Israel is entirely responsible for the life of prisoners in administrative detention,” it said in a statement, referring to a procedure under which Israel can hold Palestinian prisoners indefinitely for renewable six-month periods.

Adnan was “in danger of dying,” it added.

The prisoner was hospitalized several days ago, and he is continuing his protest against the conditions of his imprisonment, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Two other prisoners are also staging a hunger strike — Mohammed Rashdan, who is protesting against being deprived of family visits, and Ayman al-Sharbati, an East Jerusalem resident placed in solitary confinement.

Administrative detention is a procedure dating back to the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948) under which prisoners can be held for six-month periods, which can be indefinitely renewed by court order.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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