Israeli soldiers have clashed with Palestinian protesters at a rally in support of a prisoner observing an hunger strike to protest his incarceration.
The Israeli military said about 200 Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers who responded with tear gas during Friday’s rally outside Ofer prison in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The protesters called for the release of Samer Issawi, who Israel says has been on an on-again, off-again hunger strike for several months.
Issawi, 35, was initially released in 2011 in a prisoner-exchange deal. One Israeli soldier was freed from captivity in Gaza in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Some prisoners, like Issawi, were released on condition of travel limits. Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said he was arrested after he violated the terms of his release.
She said he was arrested for “terror activity” and sentenced to 26 years, but released in the 2011 prisoner swap after serving only six years.
Issawi is under medical supervision and eats periodically, she said.
The Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said Issawi began his fast in August and has been observing it intermittently.
Qaraqe said Issawi had lost 35 kilograms (about 77 pounds), has kidney pain and has lost feeling in parts of the right side of his body.
Issawi’s sister, Shireen, said he has been on hunger strike for 206 days. She said he has only been drinking water since January. She said the prison took her brother to an Israeli hospital for treatment.
The prisoner issue is very emotional for Palestinians after decades of Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territorites, in which time hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned.
Recently, Palestinian prisoners have been using hunger strikes more often as a pressure tactic to gain rights in prison.
(Agencies and Al Jazeera – aljazeera.net)