Hunger-Striking Terrorist Released to Gaza

EREZ CROSSING, Gaza Strip (AP) -

A freed Palestinian terrorist arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening after ending his hunger strike in an Israeli jail and agreeing to a plea bargain that will confine him to the Hamas-run 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 dozens of cameramen and photographers precariously gathered around the vehicle as it crossed into Gaza. 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. He 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.

Sharawneh, who was serving a 38-year prison sentence for participating in terror attacks, was among about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners freed in 2011 in the Galid Shalit deal.

In one attack, he detonated an explosives-filled handbag in Be’er Sheva, wounding more than a dozen people. He was also involved in a kidnapping attempt, according to the Shin Bet security service.

He was arrested again in January 2012 after being accused of violating the terms of his release by making contact with members of Hamas. The military court could have ordered him to serve out the remainder of his original sentence.