Palestinians Celebrate Release Of Prisoners
October 18, 2011 by staff
Palestinians Celebrate Release Of Prisoners, Tens of thousands of Palestinian flags celebrated the return home on Tuesday of hundreds of prisoners exchanged for an Israeli soldier, with the crowd urging militants to take more soldiers from the swaps in the future.
Hamas, which had negotiated the release, organized the celebration became a show of strength for the Islamic militant movement had seized Gaza from its rival moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
The joyous crowd crammed into a pile of sand, where a huge stage was set, decorated with a mural depicting the 2006 capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a military base near the Gaza border.
“People want a new Gilad!” the crowd chanted, suggesting the abduction of Israeli soldiers means freedom for thousands of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
Many hoisted green flags of Hamas, while a much smaller number raised the banner of rival Fatah, led by Abbas.
The released prisoners were heading to the border with Egypt in the south of the Gaza Strip, Gaza City in the north, and many thousands lined the streets to cheer on the caravan.
In the West Bank, Abbas addressed a crowd of several thousand, including released prisoners and their families. In an attempt to drive, he shared the stage with three leaders of Hamas in the West Bank. At one point, the four men raised their hands together in triumph.
However, Abbas is likely to suffer politically as a result of the swap, the most significant change for the Palestinians in nearly three decades. In the last years of negotiations with Israel, Abbas has only been able to secure the release of the remaining short time of their sentences.
In contrast, most of the 477 prisoners released Tuesday had been serving a life sentence for killing Israelis, and the launch violated a longstanding Israeli promise not to free “with blood on their hands.” Another 550 will be released in two months.
In his speech, Abbas praised the prisoners released as “freedom fighters.”
He suggested that his method of negotiation was also bearing fruit, saying that “there is an agreement between us and the Israeli government with a different batch (versions) similar to the batch after it ends.”
His comments marked the first time referred to a release of additional prisoners, and there was no immediate comment from Israel.
An aide to Abbas, Saeb Erekat, said later that the predecessor of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert had promised the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners after any agreement Shalit. Erekat said Abbas international mediators now ask Israel to maintain the promise.
More than 300 of the detainees arrived in Gaza, the West Bank.
In both places, the family was waiting for them impatiently.
In Gaza City, Abu Jawad Azhar, 30, celebrated the return of a brother who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for killing an Israeli in 1992. He said the last time I saw him eight years ago, before Israel imposed a ban on visits by residents of Gaza.
“My happiness is indescribable,” he said. “We’re going to get a girlfriend and everything. I just talked to him. He is very happy. This is a reminder that God does not forget anyone.”
Among those who arrived in Gaza were prisoners who grew up in the West Bank, but they were being deported to Gaza. The security chiefs have said that Israel wanted to keep the prisoners considered dangerous still far from the West Bank, which has relatively open borders with Israel. Gaza is hermetically closed by a wall along the Israeli border.
Jundiya Sobhia the West Bank city of Bethlehem to Egypt with her husband to take a brief glimpse of his 28-year-old son, Ibrahim, who was being released after 10 years. He was sentenced to multiple life sentences for an attack that killed 12 people and wounded 50.
“It’s better to be in Gaza, even if I can not see it. It’s better than jail in Israel,” he said.
“I hope to see for a few minutes,” she said, beginning to mourn. “This is the day I’ve been dreaming about for 10 years. I have not touched your hand within 10 years.”
In the end, could not see because Jundiyas convoy of prisoners did not stop during his brief turn through Egypt. The couple tries to go to Gaza, but it is difficult for the inhabitants of the West Bank to obtain permission from Israel or Egypt.
Israel prevents most movement between West Bank and Gaza.
In the West Bank, Fakhri Barghouti was carried on the shoulders of a man and was surrounded by his family singing. Sentenced to life imprisonment for killing an Israeli Barghouti, 57, had spent 34 years in prison, making him one of the oldest inmates.
“There will be happiness, as long as our brothers are in jail,” he said. “I can not feel good when I go to my brother back.”
His son, Shadi, is serving a sentence of 27 years for his involvement in an armed group. At one point, he shared a cell with his father.
Earlier Tuesday, hundreds of families of prisoners waited in a West Bank checkpoint for a first glimpse of their loved ones, but the buses carrying the prisoners were led rather directly to the headquarters of Abbas in the West Bank.
There were clashes between Palestinian youths about 200 at the checkpoint by Israeli soldiers and several hundred meters (yards) away, after families were told they had waited in the wrong place. Troops fired tear gas and Palestinians threw stones at half time. Some of the youth climbed a wall near the checkpoint and put it with Hamas and Fatah flags.
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