Hunger-striker to be freed to Gaza: Prisoners' Club

A Palestinian prisoner on long-term hunger strike has inked a deal with Israel which will see him freed to exile in Gaza for 10 years, a prisoners' rights group said Sunday.

Ayman Sharawna is one of four Palestinian prisoners who have been refusing food for months over the conditions of their detention by Israel, whose cases have sparked expressions of concern from the United Nations and the European Union.

"Palestinian prisoner Ayman Sharawna, who has been on hunger strike since mid-July, has reached a deal with the Israeli side under which he will be released to Gaza and exiled there for 10 years," Qadura Fares, head of the Ramallah-based Prisoners' Club, told AFP.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service who initially confirmed the deal, telling AFP Sharawna "will be released in a few hours," later backtracked and said the deal was not going ahead "for the time being." She did not explain further.

Sharawna, 36, is a long-term security prisoner who was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 38 years behind bars, but released in October 2011 under terms of a prisoner swap deal.

But he was rearrested three months later and charged with violating the terms of his release, although the evidence against him was kept secret.

He began refusing food in July after Israel threatened to make him serve out the remainder of his original sentence.

On February 28, Jaafar Ezzeddine and Tariq Qaadan, ended their three-month hunger strike after refusing food for three months, pending a hearing on their case. Both have been held without trial since November.

The fourth hunger striker is Samer Issawi, a security prisoner who is currently being held at Kaplan hospital near Tel Aviv after intermittently refusing food for eight months.

Like Sharawna, Issawi was freed under the 2011 swap deal but rearrested last year on charges of violating terms of his release.

Last week, Israeli medics raised the alarm over his state of health, informing the Prisoners' Club that he had suffered cardiac failure and was at risk of dying after he stopped taking liquids.