Israel return ex-prisoner weeks after ending hunger strike

Israeli authorities freed a renowned Palestinian prisoner on Sunday, two weeks after striking a release deal that ended his marathon 131-day hunger strike, said a prisoner rights group.

Kayed Fasfous, 32, had remained in an Israeli hospital since ending his strike on Nov. 23. He was the symbolic figurehead of six hunger strikers protesting Israel’s controversial policy of “administrative detention,” which allows suspects to be held indefinitely without charge.

Israel says the policy is necessary to keep dangerous suspects locked away without disclosing sensitive information that could expose valuable sources. Palestinians and rights groups say the practice denies the right of due process, allowing Israel to hold prisoners for months or even years without seeing the evidence against them. The law is rarely applied to Israelis.

Protesters carry posters showing Kayed Fasfous, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 120 days to protest being detained without charge by Israel, in the village of ad-Dhahiriya, near the West Bank town of Hebron, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Israel faced growing calls on Thursday to release five Palestinians who have been on hunger strike for weeks to protest a controversial policy of holding them indefinitely without charge. Arabic on poster reads "Freedom for prisoners who are on hunger strike". (AP PhotoMajdi Mohammed)

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, confirmed Fasfous had returned home to the occupied West Bank through a military checkpoint near the southern city of Hebron on Sunday afternoon. Later, online footage showed the former prisoner in a wheelchair celebrating his return to his southern hometown of Dura.

The plight of the six hunger strikers ignited solidarity demonstrations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in November mounting pressure on Israel to release the detainees. At least four of the five other hunger strikers have since ended their protests after reaching similar deals with Israeli authorities. They are expected to be released in the coming months.

Hunger strikes are common among Palestinian prisoners and have helped secure numerous concessions from Israeli authorities. The nature of these strikes vary from individuals protesting detention without charge to groups calling for improved cell conditions. Around 500 of the 4,600 Palestinians detained by Israel are held in administrative detention according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group.