Palestine: Exiled prisoner given hero's welcome

Ayman Sharawna.

Palestinian prisoner Ayman Sharawna, freed from Israeli prison in a deal that denies him the right to return to his West Bank home for a decade, was given a hero's welcome in the Gaza Strip on March 17.

The Morning Star said on March 19 that 36-year-old Sharawna ended his hunger strike in an Israeli jail and agreed to a plea bargain that will confine him to Gaza ― rather than his Hebron home ― for the next 10 years.

Dozens of Palestinians waved national flags and chanted slogans calling for freedom when Sharawna entered the territory in an ambulance, the Morning Star said.

He had been refusing food since July last year to protest against his incarceration. His lawyer Jawad Bulous said that he had accepted confinement to Gaza, fearing that he would be sent to prison for decades by a pending military court hearing.

“The occupation committed two crimes,” Sharawna said. “Arresting me, and then keeping me away from my family. But in Gaza, I am also with my family.”

Sharawna was originally serving a 38-year prison sentence, but was among about 1000 Palestinian prisoners freed in 2011 in exchange for an Israeli soldier held for five years by Hamas in Gaza.

He was arrested again in January last year after being accused of violating the terms of his release by making contact with members of Hamas.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) released a statement on March 18 that “condemns the deportation of a Palestinian detainee, Ayman al-Sharawna, by the Israeli forces to the Gaza Strip”.

The statement said: “PCHR believes that the decision to deport al-Sharawna to Gaza amounts to a forcible deportation, and reminds that deportation of protected persons is prohibited under Article 49 of the Geneva Convention Relative of the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention).”

Once in Gaza, Sharawna was transported to Shifa Hospital and admitted into the intensive care unit. PCHR said his health had deteriorated during his 260 days of hunger strike, suffering from from pains throughout the body, temporary loss of his eyesight and weight loss.

In February last year, Sharawna was placed in solitary confinement in Elia Prison. The PCHR said Israel's Supreme Court refused to intervene into his case.

The PCHR called for allowing Sharawna and other Palestinian deportees to return to their homes.

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