The Palestinian footballer Mahmoud al-Sarsak has reached his 88th day of continual hunger strike in protest at being held in an Israeli prison for the past three years without charge.
Al-Sarsak was a student in his third year of a computer programming course when he was arrested on July 22nd 2009 at the Beit Hanoun [Eretz] border crossing while on his way to the West Bank. He played football for the Rafah Services Club and the Palestinian national team.
Lawyers visiting al-Sarsak have confirmed that matters have developed and that his state of health is much more serious than was imagined previously. He has been made aware of these developments.
Israel's Prison Welfare Department and its intelligence apparatus have tried to exert pressure on al-Sarsak to end his hunger strike. They have given him verbal promises that he will be released on July 1st. Nevertheless, al-Sarsak is sticking to his demands for an official signed document outlining the pledge made by the Israeli authorities which will oblige them to release him on the proposed date.
The young man has refused an Israeli offer to exile him to Norway under the pretext of allowing him to go on a three month trip to seek medical attention after which he would be allowed to return. Instead, he has demanded to be released immediately and allowed to return to his home in the Gaza Strip.
As his condition worsened, Israel's Asaf Harofeh Medical Centre announced that al-Sarsak was dying and informed the Prison Welfare Department that the hospital would accept no responsibility for his death in what they said would be within hours.
Activists on the streets of Gaza are continuing their massive campaign in solidarity with al-Sarsak outside the headquarters of the Red Cross, as well as in the media, in an effort to put international pressure on the Israeli Occupation Authorities to force his immediate release.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad