GAZA CITY - Former hunger striker Mahmoud al-Sarsak said refusing food had exposed the tortures experienced by Palestinians in Israeli custody, in his first comments after his release to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
"Hunger strike isn’t a simple word to be thrown up into the air, but something one must think about a hundred times before embarking on," he said during a reception in Rafah.
"The long hunger strike I followed proves to the whole world that Palestinian athletes can make miracles."
"FIFA expressed solidarity with my cause as well as European countries, and that helped expose Israeli policies and show the oppression of the Palestinian people," he continued.
Al-Sarsak said his stay in Ramle prison hospital while he was refusing food was very difficult. "Nurses at Ramle prison hospital were worse than interrogators themselves," he said.
The 25-year-old soccer player refused food in Israeli jail for over 90 days to protest his imprisonment without charge, before he was released to his home in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, as part of a deal that ended his hunger strike.
Al-Sarsak was the only person held under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows for Palestinians from Gaza to be detained for an unlimited amount of time without charge or trial.
He had joined the local soccer team in his Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip at 14, becoming the youngest footballer to play in the Palestine Liga A at the time. The midfielder attracted the attention of a German coach while playing for the Palestine national team in Norway.
The first step was to play for a team in the West Bank. But Israeli security arrested him on July 22, 2009, at the Erez crossing from the blockaded Gaza Strip, the only route to Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank.