Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike exiled to Gaza

Published: Updated:

One of four Palestinian prisoners, whose intermittent hunger strikes stoked clashes with Israel, has been exiled on Sunday (March 17) from his native occupied West Bank to the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official said.

The deal freeing Ayman Sharawneh seemed an effort to ease tensions ahead of Wednesday’s visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Israel and Palestinian territory. Two other inmates held by Israel stopped their fasts last month after a deal was reached for their release.

“The deportation of the prisoner Ayman Sharawneh by the Israeli occupation from where he lives is an example of oppression which the Palestinian prisoners face. We in Hamas assure our rejection of the deportation policy but we also assure that Gaza will welcome Ayman Sharawneh and all of our Palestinian nation,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesperson.

Qadura Fares, head of an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners told Reuters that said Sharawneh, from the Hebron area of the West Bank, was en route to Gaza where he has agreed to remain for 10 years.

“Ayman has agreed on the deal from the beginning and today he signed a paper for the deal to deport him to Gaza Strip for ten years before he is back to the West Bank,” Fares said.

Sharawneh, 37, was freed from an Israeli prison as part of a 2011 swap in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held more than five years in Gaza, but was rearrested last year.

He had been jailed in 2002 for involvement in the violence of a deadly uprising that erupted when peace talks failed, in which several thousand Palestinians and more than a thousand Israelis were killed.

“As for Ayman Sharawneh’s family, I repeat saying that we refuse the deportation deal but we have no other choice. My brother has no choice other than be sentenced for 28 years - his old sentence - before he was freed in Shalit’s deal or be deported to Gaza. I think that Ayman’s choice is right and at the end he is a winner against the warden and the Zionist intelligence,” said Jihad Sharawneh, prisoner’s brother.

He was among four prisoners who launched intermittent hunger strikes against being held without charge. Two others stopped their hunger protests last month after being assured they would be released when their terms are up in May.

The worsening state of Israeli prisons, coupled with the death of another Palestinian, Arafat Jaradat, in detention last month, had fuelled violence in which six Palestinian protesters were shot and badly wounded.