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Officials say deal reached to free Hana Shalabi

March 29, 2012 9:33 P.M. (Updated: April 2, 2012 8:01 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A deal to release Palestinian hunger-striker Hana Shalabi to the Gaza Strip temporarily was reached late Thursday, officials with knowledge of the negotiations told Ma'an.

The officials say Shalabi will be sent to Gaza for three years in exchange for giving up a 43-day strike against Israel's policy of holding detainees without charge.

The Palestinian prisoners society confirmed the deal in a statement praising Shalabi's resolve. It expressed its appreciation for her efforts to bring attention to Israel's policies toward prisoners.

Qadoura Fares of the prisoners society said Shalabi agreed to the deal "in return for ending her strike and being freed. ... We reject deportation, but this is her decision and her own life," Fares said.

Shalabi's lawyer, Jawwad Boulous, also confirmed the agreement.

According to a high-ranking Palestinian source, the deal was reached after Palestinian officials and Red Cross intervened to confirm that Shalabi approved.

The Palestinian Authority minister of civil affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, said the leadership in Ramallah was not involved in the negotiations as it rejects Israel's deportation policy.

The deal apparently followed talks between Shalabi and the Israeli government, he said.

Al-Sheikh added that Israel is responsible for the hunger-striker's well-being and should instead release Shalabi unconditionally to her home and family in the West Bank, not to Gaza.

An Israeli official said: "I am aware there were negotiations of that sort." The official did not immediately elaborate, Reuters reported.

Israel had previously held Shalabi for 25 months but released her in October under a prisoner swap with Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Israeli authorities say Shalabi remains an active member of Islamic Jihad, but her father, Yehia, said that since the exchange his daughter had not been active in the group.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman, Daoud Shihab, denied knowledge of the deal. If it exists, he said, the agreement would have been made without his group's involvement as it rejects deportation.

Israel struck a deal last month with Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad member, persuading him to end his 66-day strike after assuring him that he would be released in April from his detention without trial.

Human rights groups have condemned Israel's detention without trial of some 300 Palestinians.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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