JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Defying Israeli warnings banning celebrations, dozens of Palestinian Jerusalemites on Monday evening celebrated the release of prominent prisoner Samir Issawi in his hometown of Issawiya in East Jerusalem.
Upon Issawi’s arrival to the neighborhood Monday night, young men carried him on their shoulders while dozens waved Palestinian flags chanting slogans in support of Palestinian prisoners still in Israeli custody.
Prior to his arrival in Issawiya, Issawi was received in Jericho by the Palestinian minister of prisoners’ affairs Issa Qaraqe and chair of the Palestinian prisoners’ society Qaddura Faris, along with other officials.
The Palestinian Authority governor of Jerusalem Adnan al-Huseini and the governor of Ramallah Layla Ghannam welcomed Issawi at his home in Issawiya. They applauded Samir for the legendary 9-month hunger strike which secured his release.
Issawi thanked the Palestinian people and “all free people of the world” for supporting him during his hunger strike.
He highlighted that his hunger strike was dedicated to the people of Gaza who paid a heavy toll while Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was in captivity in the Gaza Strip, referring to the intense Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, which killed around 1,400 people.
Prior to his release on Monday, Israeli forces raided his family home and threatened his family that they would not allow any celebration of his release to take place in the neighborhood.
The day before, Israeli forces raided his house and handed notices to his brother and father demanding they meet with Israeli intelligence forces.
Issawi was released as part of an agreement in which he ended a 266-day hunger strike in April, during which time he became an international cause célèbre who focused attention on the plight of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Issawi’s hunger strike was one of the longest in history, and brought him close to death.
Issawi was originally arrested by Israeli forces during the Second Intifada, but was among hundreds of prisoners released in 2011 as part of a deal to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The release agreement confined him to Jerusalem, but he was re-arrested in July 2012 after traveling to a village that is mostly in Jerusalem but also partially in the West Bank.
He subsequently launched a hunger strike against the renewed detention, and only concluded the strike after Israel agreed to release him.
5,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of Oct. 2013, according to the Palestinian Authority’s ministry of prisoners’ affairs. Another 1,280 are in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.
Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, representing 20 percent of the total population and 40 percent of all males in the occupied territories.
Under international law, it is illegal to transfer prisoners outside of the occupied territory in which they are detained, and the families of Palestinian prisoners’ face many obstacles in obtaining permits to see their imprisoned relatives.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.