Israel agreed to release hunger-striking Palestinian, fearing West Bank riots
Samer Issawi was released from prison in the Shalit deal and arrested again 10 months ago after violating parole; he will serve another 8 months in prison and have to remain near his East Jerusalem neighborhood afterward.
Fearing that hunger-striking Palestinian security prisoner Samer Issawi might die behind bars, Israel has agreed to free him on parole, senior officials in Jerusalem confirmed on Tuesday.
Issawi, who was released from prison in the 2011 deal to free Gilad Shalit, was arrested 10 months ago after violating his parole by leaving the Jerusalem area. Also, the Shin Bet security service said it had information showing that Issawi intended to return to terror.
Issawi, 32, went on a hunger strike off and on for more than 210 days. His life in danger, he was hospitalized several times.
Concerns have increased over the impact Issawi's death in prison might have on the mood in the West Bank. This came after the death of security prisoner Arafat Jaradat in Megiddo Prison and the riots that broke out afterward, as well as the death of another security prisoner from cancer. Also, European Union officials have put pressure on Israel due to Issawi's health.
Over the past few weeks, talks have been held among the Israel Prison Service, the Public Security Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Shin Bet and the Prime Minister's Office to try to end the crisis. One conclusion was to negotiate with Issawi's lawyers.
According to a senior Israeli official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the Issawi deal two days ago after consulting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. The ministers were presented with the following conditions for Issawi's release:
1. Issawi will serve another eight months from the time the deal was signed, and will have served 18 months since he was arrested for violating his parole.
2. Issawi will immediately cease his hunger strike.
3. After he is freed from prison, Issawi will promise not to leave the area around the village where he lives, the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. He will be forbidden from entering the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and will promise not to maintain contacts with members of terror groups or anyone carrying out terror activities.
4. If Issawi violates his parole again or commits a criminal act that entails a punishment greater than three months in prison, his suspended sentence of 14 and a half years in prison will be activated.
The senior official added that the ministers were unsure about the deal for two reasons. First, Issawi had already been freed in the Shalit deal and had violated his parole. Second, Issawi's second release would occur following his hunger strike, which could set a precedent encouraging other prisoners to take similar steps in the future.