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Lawyer: Al-Sarsak ends hunger strike in release deal

June 18, 2012 7:00 P.M. (Updated: June 20, 2012 11:01 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Mahmoud al-Sarsak, on hunger strike in an Israeli jail for 92 days, agreed to start eating on Monday in a deal that will see him released on July 10, his lawyer said.

Mohammad Jaberein said al-Sarsak signed the agreement during his visit to the prisoner on Monday. Israeli prison authorities asked al-Sarsak to eat something in their presence to ratify the deal, after which he took a piece of chocolate from the lawyer, Jaberein said.

An Israeli prisons spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

Under the deal al-Sarsak will visit a civilian hospital for treatment on Tuesday, but the same day will return to Ramle prison clinic until his release on July 10, the lawyer added.

Physicians for Human Rights - Israel say the clinic is not equipped to treat long-term hunger strikers or manage the health risks when they return to eating, and has called for transfer of hunger strikers to civilian facilities.

The 25-year-old soccer player from the Gaza Strip has been imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial since July 2009.

According to prisoners group Addameer, al-Sarsak was told the next consideration of his release was set for August 22. An earlier offer to release him on July 1 in exchange for ending his hunger strike was withdrawn when he demanded the deal be put into writing, the group said.

He is the only person held under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows for Palestinians from Gaza to be detained for an unlimited amount of time without charge or trial.

Al-Sarsak had joined the local soccer team in his Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip at 14, becoming the youngest footballer to play in the Palestine Liga A at the time. The midfielder attracted the attention of a German coach while playing for the Palestine national team in Norway.

The first step was to play for a team in the West Bank. But Israeli security arrested him on July 22, 2009, at the Erez crossing from the blockaded Gaza Strip, the only route to Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank.
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