Palestinian on hunger strike is freed, deported to Gaza
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM — A Palestinian woman who launched a hunger strike to protest her detention by Israel’s military was deported to the Gaza Strip on Sunday in a deal that prevents her from returning to her home in the West Bank for three years.
Hana Shalabi, who was accused of being a member of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, was arrested by Israel in February and held without charge. She immediately began a hunger strike to protest Israel’s use of so-called administrative detention, a practice under which several hundred Palestinians are held indefinitely without charges or trial.
In February, an Islamic Jihad member held under administrative detention, Khader Adnan, ended his own 66-day hunger strike after being assured he would be released April 17 and that his detention would not be renewed.
Shalabi, from the West Bank city of Jenin, was among those released last year in the prisoner exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Israeli authorities had held her in administrative detention since 2009 on suspicion of plotting a suicide attack but she was never charged, military officials said.
She was arrested again Feb. 16 on suspicion of preparing to participate in an attack against Israelis, military officials said. However, family members told Palestinian media that she had not been active with Islamic Jihad since her release last year.
On Sunday, Shalabi was sent to the Gaza Strip, following a brief visit with her West Bank relatives.
At the Erez checkpoint, she was received warmly by Gaza Strip residents holding signs welcoming her as a hero. “Welcome to Gaza, your home,” read one.
She told the crowd that her release brought “delight mixed with pain, because I am leaving family, friends and my hometown.” After examining Shalabi, a Gaza doctor said her condition was good.
Palestinian officials and human-rights groups complained that it was improper to deport Shalabi to Gaza and that she should be permitted to return to her home in the West Bank. Israeli officials said she poses a security risk and could not be returned to the West Bank.
— Edmund Sanders
Special correspondent Rushdi abu Alouf in Gaza City contributed.
Photo: Palestinian women hold posters of Hana Shalabi as they wait to greet her near the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Sunday. Credit: Ali Ali / EPA.