Children hold portraits of Samer Issawi at a sit-in outside the Red Cross offices in Jerusalem on March 14, 2013
Children hold portraits of Samer Issawi at a sit-in outside the Red Cross offices in Jerusalem last month. Israel has rejected appeals to release a Palestinian prisoner on a life-endangering long-term hunger strike to the West Bank, Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqea told AFP on Saturday. © Ahmad Gharabli - AFP/File
Children hold portraits of Samer Issawi at a sit-in outside the Red Cross offices in Jerusalem on March 14, 2013
AFP
Last updated: April 13, 2013

Israel rejects plea for Palestinian hunger-striker

Israel has rejected appeals to release to the West Bank a Palestinian prisoner on a life-threatening long-term hunger strike, Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqea told AFP on Saturday.

Qaraqea said Israeli officials told him on Saturday that Samer Issawi, who has intermittently refused food for more than eight months, "is in critical condition and might die at any moment."

Issawi, 33, was first arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for militant activity in the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was released under a prisoner swap in October 2011, but rearrested in July for violating the terms of the agreement by travelling to the Israeli-occupied West Bank from annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

An Israeli official said on Friday that Issawi had gone to the West Bank to establish "terror cells."

Israel has ordered that he serve the remainder of his original sentence.

Issawi's health has deteriorated because of his prolonged fast, and he is being held in an Israeli hospital. The Israeli official said he could "immediately be released to Gaza."

Qaraqea said the Palestinians had requested that he be released temporarily to the West Bank.

"We proposed that they release him to Ramallah for a while and they refused," he said.

"We agreed to send him to Europe for a few months to receive medical treatment and then come back again but they refused."

Around 250 of Issawi's supporters rallied peacefully on Saturday in Abu Dis, a Palestinian neighbourhood on the outskirts of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, carrying his picture and calling for his release.

A group of Israeli intellectuals, including writers Amos Oz and A B Yehoshua, wrote to Issawi urging him to call off his hunger strike, Israeli army radio and news website Ynet reported.

"Your act of suicide will add another element of tragedy and despair to the conflict between the two nations," Ynet quoted the message as saying.

"Do not add despair to the despair that already exists," it said. "Give yourself hope and in this way, strengthen the hope amongst us all."

An Israeli official said on Friday that Israel had told the European Union and the United Nations that it was willing to free Issawi and deport him overseas but his lawyer said his client strongly rejected the proposal.

An EU spokesman said no official proposal had been received.

Issawi is the last of four Palestinian prisoners who were on extended hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, after two ended their fast in February and a third was exiled from the West Bank last month to the Gaza Strip for 10 years.

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