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Palestinians campaign to release oldest prisoner held in Israeli jail

The family of Fuad al-Shobaki, a former senior general in the PA's security forces, say his health has rapidly deteriorated and he should be let go
Fuad al-Shobaki, 81, has three years left on a 17-year sentence (Twitter/@_1BUV)

Palestinian activists launched a campaign on Tuesday to release 81-year old Fuad al-Shobaki, the oldest Palestinian prisoner currently held in an Israeli jail, local media reported.

Shobaki was a senior general in the Palestinian Authority's security forces, a senior Fatah leader and also a financial consultant for late PA President Yasser Arafat. 

In 2002, the PA arrested him on charges that he had masterminded the Karen A, a ship that carried weapons from Iran at the height of the Second Intifada and was seized by the Israeli marine forces.

Shobaki was held at the Palestinian prison in Jericho under American and British observation.

'I am telling you that I am the next prison martyr'

Fuad al-Shobaki

Then in 2006, Israeli forces stormed the Jericho prison and kidnapped the Palestinian, who then faced a trial in an Israeli military court over the Karen A charges, which he denied. He was eventually sentenced to 20 years in jail, later decreased to 17.

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Shobaki has three years of this sentence left to serve. While family members regularly visit to cheer him up, they say they are concerned that his health has rapidly deteriorated and are calling for his release. 

Shobaki's son Hazem told Arab 48 news site that his father now depends on fellow prisoners to assist him from his bed even short distances to the toilet or the kitchen.

Shobaki has previously survived prostate cancer and recently underwent surgery for glaucoma, but his eyesight has declined since then.

In a letter leaked to the media in December, Shobaki criticised the PA and the Fatah movement for ignoring him in his prison cell.

“Today, I feel sad that you do not even mention my name in your meetings. Is there anyone from the leadership who is asking about me or calling on popular or international movements to release me?” Shobaki wrote.

“I am telling you that I am the next prison martyr. Shame on you for sitting in chairs that you do not deserve," he wrote.

According to prisoner rights group Hurryyat, there are around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, with an estimated 700 suffering from various illnesses and diseases. Eighteen others are permanently hospitalised in Ramleh prison clinic.

In 2019, five Palestinians died inside Israeli prisons, including Sami Abu Diak who died in November after battling cancer.

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