Palestinian held by Israel ends fast, eyes Gaza exile

Reuters, Friday 30 Mar 2012

Israel decided to deport Hana Shalabi to the Gaza Strip after 44 days on hunger strike

A Palestinian woman holds a poster of Islamic Jihad supporter Hana Shalabi in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 20, 2012. (Photo: AP)

A Palestinian woman on hunger strike in protest at her detention without charges by Israel will be deported to the Gaza Strip under a deal ending her fast, boths sides said on Thursday.

Hana Shalabi, a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, stopped taking food after Israeli troops seized her in the occupied West Bank on Feb. 16. She was the second Palestinian detainee in quick succession to go on hunger strike, a protest since taken up by around two-dozen others.

Qadoura Fares of the Palestinian Prisoners Club said Shalabi, 30, had agreed to three years' exile in Gaza, which is geographically separate from the West Bank and under Israeli blockade, "in return for ending her strike and being freed".

"This is her decision and her own life," Fares told Reuters.

Shalabi's lawyer, Jawwad Boulous, said he did not know when the deal might be implemented given her deteriorating health. She had refused food for 44 days, her representatives said, though Israel's Prisons Service put the duration at 40 days.

Confirming the agreement, Israel's military said Shalabi would be deported to Gaza "in the next few days" and that she had promised "to avoid any involvement in terror activity".

Should Israel deem her to have violated that undertaking it could prosecute her upon her return to the West Bank, the statement said.

Israeli officials said Shalabi had been detained on suspicion of involvement in planned Islamic Jihad attacks.

But citing the need to protect intelligence sources from exposure in court proceedings, the military held her without charge under so-called "administrative detention". The original six-month term was trimmed to four months by Israel on March 4.

Israel had previously held Shalabi for 25 months but released her in October under a prisoner swap with the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza and, like Islamic Jihad, is deeply hostile to the Jewish state.

Shalabi's father, Yehia, said that since the exchange his daughter had not been active in Islamic Jihad, which on Thursday deplored the conditions of her prospective release.

"We reject the Occupation's (Israel's) policy of deportations and we warn against them blackmailing prisoners," a spokesman for the group said.

The U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority, which lost Gaza to Hamas in a 2007 civil war and has since cracked down on Islamic militants in the West Bank, was also disapproving.

"We were not part of the deal and we reject deportations," said PA official Hussein Al-Sheikh.

Israel struck a deal last month with Khader Adnan, another Islamic Jihad member, persuading him to end his 66-day fast after assuring him that he would be released in April from his detention without trial.

At least another two-dozen Palestinian inmates remain on hunger-strike. Human rights groups have condemned Israel's detention without trial of some 300 Palestinians.

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