Palestinian footballer ends hunger strike after deal

The shadow of a Palestinian youth playing football is silhouetted against a banner forming part of a protest tent in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Sarsak in Rafah, Gaza on 10 June 2012. (Photo: AFP – Said Khatib)

A Palestinian footballer on hunger strike in an Israeli jail agreed on Monday to end his protest after Israel was forced to cut a deal to release him, his lawyer said.

Mahmoud Sarsak, who has refused food for 92 days, agreed to start eating after Israel offered to release him on 10 July.
His lawyer Mohammad Jaberein told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an that the agreement was signed in his presence, with Sarsak eating chocolate in front of Israeli authorities to prove he had ended the protest.

Israel’s decision to cut a deal to release Sarsak comes after sustained international pressure, including in the sporting world.

Footballing legend Eric Cantona last week called for him to be released, while the Israeli women’s team faced protests when they played in Scotland on Saturday.

Under the deal al-Sarsak will return to Ramle prison clinic until his release.

The 25-year-old professional footballer from Gaza has been imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial since July 2009.

He is held under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows Israel to detain Palestinians from Gaza for an unlimited amount of time without trial.

Al-Sarsak had joined the local soccer team in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza at the age of 14, and had gone on to play for the Palestinian national team.

He was arrested as he left Gaza heading for the West Bank, where he was hoping to continue his football career.


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