Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ayman Sharawneh ends hunger strike, exiled to Gaza by Israel

By Leona Vicario - March 25, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Behind Bars]
Tags: [Hunger Strike] [prisoners] [Gaza] [Ayman Sharawneh]

After almost 8 months, former prisoner Ayman Sharawneh ended his hunger strike. On Sunday, March 17 he was transferred on a 10 year deportation deal to the Gaza Strip where he immediately received medical treatment at the Shifa Hospital.

Deportation was the precondition for Sharawneh’s release. He faced just two possibilities: either to sign on to a 28 year sentence in Israeli jail or be exiled into Gaza for ten years.

Sharawneh, 36, is originally from Dura in Hebron. He was held at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva due to his long-deteriorating health. The Israeli authorities showed up exactly two days before his deportation and revealed the options, telling him: “The day after tomorrow you should have made a decision.”

“He did not want to stop hunger striking until his arrival in Gaza, to make sure Israel accomplished they deal, but they forced him [to eat],” explains the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) in Hebron, Amjad Najjar, who has been communicating with Sharawneh and his family throughout the entire process. 

“I have served 10 years in occupation prisons, dedicating this time of my life to the Palestinian cause. Now I have to think of my family,” Amjad recounted Sharawneh’s words. 

The announcement of his exiled freedom was made public one day prior to a hearing before the Israeli Military Court in Ofer Prison where Sharawneh expected to be sentenced to another 28 days of detention before confronting 28 years behind bars.

Sharawneh’s relationship with the Israeli Military Court started more than 10 years ago in 2002, when he was arrested and condemned to 38 years in prison under charges of collaboration with the Islamist political party Hamas. In October 2011, the West Bank political prisoner was included in the first half of a prisoner swap in which Israel released 477 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.  

The signed terms of his release forbade him to leave the Hebron district, where he resides, and required him to attend a session with the occupation’s intelligence officials every two months.

However, three months after his release, Sharawneh was once again arrested by the Israeli occupation forces on January 31 and charged with breaching the terms of his release although the evidence against him was under a “secret administrative file”. The military prosecution in Ofer Court demanded that he complete the 28 years left of his previous sentence and delayed any of the defense’s proceedings to obtain the information contained within that secret file. 

Since his rearrest, his family was allowed to visit him only twice. In July, he stopped eating. “When all the doors close on you face, the hunger strike is the only option for political prisoners,” Amjad Najjar points out. 

Sharawneh was once again arrested by the Israeli occupation forces and charged with breaching the terms of his release although the evidence against him was under a secret administrative file

“As an example: If someone in your family dies [while you are imprisoned], you would want to at least call your house, show your feelings. But Israel refuses that all.” 

“Sharawneh started his struggle due to his re-imprisonment, but mostly to denounce his threatening situation. He barely had access to food, clothes, medical treatment and, especially painful, his family,” stresses Najjar. 

“When he began hunger-striking the harassment got worse. They kept him in isolation for two months and another three months imprisoned amid Jewish common criminals pushing him to give up,” he recalls. “Once, during the advocate’s visit, the scene became farfetched. Ayman felt absolutely rundown.  When he tried to reach his attorney, he found himself 200 meters away. He was made to walk that distance, but fell down. He even lost consciousness for a while, but he woke up and managed to reach the lawyer.”

More political prisoners, more struggles, more repression

Nevertheless, even after his release from Israeli prison, Sharawneh’s family has still not managed to find peace. A few hours after the conditional liberation, Israeli occupation forces raided the home of Ayman’s brother, Jihad Sharawneh, 34 in Deir Samit and detained him. 

“One day before his arrest, Jihad was as satisfied as he could be with his brother’s exile despite the long voyage the family would have to take through Jordan, Egypt and, finally, the Gaza Strip to reach Ayman,” Najjar said. “Previously Jihad was worried about the destiny of Ayman’s two wives and nine children. He told me that the Shin Bet, the Israel’s internal security service, caught him days ago and held him for seven hours. [Jihad’s arrest] is a payback.”

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners are under Israeli custody in need of medical treatment. Long-term hunger strikers such as Samer Issawi, Jafar Ezzdine or Tareq Qa’dan persist in the struggle for their basic rights as human beings. 

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