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Israel to free footballer Mahmoud Sarsak after epic 3-month hunger strike, lawyer says
Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada

Hafez OmarMahmoud Sarsak, the Palestinian national footballer player who gathered worldwide attention with a three-month hunger strike that brought him to the brink of death, is to be freed by Israel on 10 July, the Associated Press quoted his lawyer as saying today:

RAMALLAH, West BankA lawyer for an imprisoned Palestinian soccer player who has been on a hunger strike for more than three months says his client has agreed to resume eating and will be released July 10 in a deal with Israel.

The attorney, Mohammed Jabareen, spoke Monday after the deal was struck at an Israeli prison clinic. Israeli prison officials could not be reached for comment.

The soccer player, Mahmoud Sarsak, has been held by Israel for nearly three years without charges or trial. Israel claims he was active in the violent group Islamic Jihad. Sarsak denies the allegations.

Maan news agency added that after the deal was signed, Sarsak broke his strike with a piece of chocolate:

Mohammad Jaberein said al-Sarsak signed the agreement during his visit to the prisoner on Monday. Israeli prison authorities asked al-Sarsak to eat something in their presence to ratify the deal, after which he took a piece of chocolate from the lawyer, Jaberein said.

Last week, Sarsak, who was critically ill and near death, had agreed to take milk for a few days to allow time for Israel to reconsider his demands.

Reasons for caution
If the reported deal is implemented, it would mark a major victory for Sarsak, who despite never being charged with any crime, has been maligned in the media as a terrorist by Israeli officials.

There are reasons for caution, however. Even if a deal has been struck, Israel has been reneging on an agreement ended a month-long mass Palestinian hunger strike in May.

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