A freed Palestinian prisoner has been given a hero's welcome in the Gaza Strip after ending his hunger strike in an Israeli jail and agreeing to a plea bargain that will confine him to the territory for the next 10 years.
After his release from Israeli custody, Ayman Sharawneh arrived at the Erez Crossing in an ambulance with its siren blaring and red lights flashing as it crossed into Gaza on Sunday evening. Dozens of Palestinians waved national flags and chanted slogans calling for freedom.
Sharawneh, 53, appeared weak, shaky and shrunken, and was taken to a hospital in Gaza City.
A resident of the West Bank, the former prisoner had been refusing food since last July to protest his incarceration. His lawyer, Jawad Bulous, said Sharawneh accepted the offer of confinement to Gaza, fearing he would be sent to prison for decades in a military court hearing set for Monday.
"The occupation committed two crimes," Sharawneh said, referring to Israel. "Arresting me, and then keeping me away from my family. But in Gaza, I am also with my family," he said, his voice cracking as he spoke from his hospital bed.