Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, a soccer player on the Palestinian National Team, has been under administrative detention in Israeli prison for three years, on suspicion of involvement in activities of the Islamic Jihad organization. He continues the hunger strike that he began more than 80 days ago in protest at his continued detention, despite the agreement that was brokered with the Palestinian prisoners a few weeks ago that led to an end in their mass hunger strike. “Sarsak’s administrative detention was supposed to end next August. Then they promised him that he would be released this July, but later on, the Israeli authorities retracted their promise. That’s why he decided to continue his hunger strike,” said attorney Jawad Boulos, head of the legal department in the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), to Ma’ariv.
According to Boulos, who met with Sarsak on Tuesday in the Ramle Prison Service Medical Center, “His medical condition is dire after an extended hunger-strike period. Nevertheless, he insists on continuing to refuse food until he will be released.”
Boulos expressed amazement at the state’s position in refusing to release the popular athlete. “Usually, Israel expels the Palestinians to the Gaza Strip. And that’s exactly where Sarsak wants to go — to his home in Rafiah. He said that he wants to be expelled to Gaza, so why don’t they send him there?”
Sarsak was arrested in July 2009 at the Erez border crossing when he was on his way to sign a contract with the soccer club of the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. He was arrested on the basis of intelligence information, and in accordance with the Illegal Combatants Law. The Israel security system believes that he belongs to the Islamic Jihad organization.
After the conclusion of the mass hunger strike, the massive media coverage of the prisoners and administrative detainees has faded. Since then, Sarsek’s hunger strike has broken records set by Khader Adnan, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla who all refused food for less than 80 days. Therefore Sarsek’s family appealed to the media and human rights organizations to take part in efforts to place pressure on Israel to release their son. They also plan to involve the International Football Association (FIFA) and even turned to the chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, and called on him to get involved in their cause. They claim that Sarsek has lost tens of kilograms of weight, lost his hearing, and faces real danger of death.
Hamas’ Ministry of Youth and Sports also holds Sarsek in great esteem and praises him for remaining steadfast. The ministry blames Israel for Sarsek’s dire condition, and even threatens harsh retaliation if something terrible should happen to him. Recently, the ministry even initiated an honorary game in tribute to the athlete/prisoner under administrative detention. Sarsek’s soccer team in Rafiah took part in this game.