Israel agrees to release Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak in return for ending hunger strike
Mahmoud Sarsak has finally gotten his release from prison.

Israel has released Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak who has been on hunger strike for more than three months in protest against his detention.

Sarsak, 25, greeted well-wishers in his native Gaza after three years in Israeli custody without charge, a trial or contact with the family. He emerged from an ambulance and kissed his parents and siblings

His deteriorating health brought global attention to his case.

During his hunger strike, the athlete experienced an extreme loss of muscle tissue and a dramatic weight loss. He ended the fast last month as part of a deal for his release. Once a star in the Palestinian national team, Sarsak was jailed by Israel in 2009 as he left the Gaza Strip en route to a match.

He had been held under the Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows Israeli authorities to detain Palestinians from Gaza for an unlimited period without trial or charge.

The footballer rejected a deal with Israel that ended a mass hunger strike of prisoners in May.

He refused treatment because he had a "deep distrust" of Israeli prison doctors, who threatened to force-feed him and tried to persuade him to accept treatment.

As outrage grew about his incarceration, former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona sent a letter to British sports minister Hugh Robertson and Uefa president Michel Platini, saying that Israel should be subjected to the same criticism as Poland and Ukraine, the co-hosts of Euro 2012.

The letter was co-signed by left-wing critic Noam Chomsky and film director Ken Loach.

"It is time to end Israel's impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states," the letter said.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter urged the Israeli Football Association to intervene, expressing grave concern for Sarsak's health.

Further solidarity was shown by fans in Edinburgh, who cheered for Sarsak at a Scotland-Israel Euro 2013 women's football qualifier. The fans waved Palestinian flags and banners and shouted "Free Mahmoud Sarsak" and "Free Palestine".

Israeli officials labelled Sarsak an "Islamic Jihad terrorist who planned attacks and bombings".