Israel releases Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Israel Prison Service on Monday freed Samer Issawi, a Palestinian inmate whose prolonged hunger strike helped fuel weeks of protests in the West Bank this year.

Issawi, 34, refused food for eight months, receiving only infusions of water, vitamins and other supplements, according to his attorney.

He was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years in prison in connection with the manufacture of pipe bombs and shooting attacks on Israeli vehicles.

Issawi was among more than 1,000 Palestinians freed in 2011 in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit but was re-arrested in July 2012 for allegedly violating the terms of his release by traveling to the West Bank. He embarked on the hunger strike the following month.


Fearing an outbreak of violence in the West Bank if Issawi died in prison, Israeli authorities agreed in April to send him home after serving eight more months. As a result, he ended his fast.

Hundreds of people gathered at Issawi’s home in East Jerusalem on Monday to await his return. The mood was festive despite a warning from Israeli police to the family not to hold any open celebrations in their neighborhood.

Abukhater is a special correspondent.