Former hunger-striker Mahmoud al-Sarsak arrived on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip after being released from Israeli custody.
Relatives gathered at the Palestinian side of the Israeli Erez crossing in northern Gaza to welcome the freed prisoner, who refused food in Israeli jail for over 90 days to protest his imprisonment without charge.
Senior Islamic Jihad leader Nafith Azzam held a news conference at the hospital pledging to continue solidarity activities supporting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
“Mahmoud al-Sarsak has his name written in the records of honor and glory, and what he did will make us more adamant to stand in the face of occupation,” Azzam said.
The 25-year-old soccer player from the Gaza Strip had been imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial since July 2009. He agreed to end his hunger strike on June 18 in return for his release.
He was not included in a May deal which ended mass hunger strikes in Israeli jails, and an offer to free him was withdrawn by Israeli authorities after he asked for his release date to be put in writing, prisoners rights group Addameer says.
He is the only person held under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows for Palestinians from Gaza to be detained for an unlimited amount of time without charge or trial.
Al-Sarsak had joined the local soccer team in his Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip at 14, becoming the youngest footballer to play in the Palestine Liga A at the time. The midfielder attracted the attention of a German coach while playing for the Palestine national team in Norway.
The first step was to play for a team in the West Bank. But Israeli security arrested him on July 22, 2009, at the Erez crossing from the blockaded Gaza Strip, the only route to Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank.
Source: Ma’an News