News / Middle East

Israel Frees More Palestinian Prisoners

Israel Releases 3rd Group of Palestinian Prisonersi
X
December 31, 2013 9:14 PM
Israel has released 26 Palestinian prisoners who had been serving lengthy terms - mostly for attacks on Israelis that took place more than 20 years ago. It was the third scheduled release as part of a deal to revive the Middle East peace talks after a three-year freeze. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Qalandia Refugee Camp near Ramallah.
Scott Bobb
Ramadan Yakoub is tasting freedom for the first time in 21 years. Until a few hours ago, he was in prison, convicted of killing an Israeli woman.
 
His release brings to 78 the number of long-term Palestinian prisoners freed as part of confidence-building measures to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a three-year freeze.
 
In the latest round of releases, Israel has freed 26 more Palestinian prisoners who were jailed, mostly for attacks on Israelis that took place more than 20 years ago.
 
“When I heard the news I felt like a newborn child," he said. "I wish this feeling upon all the prisoners. It was a wonderful moment for me.”
 
Crowds cheered and waved flags as they gave Yakoub and his fellow freed prisoners a hero's welcome in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem on Tuesday.
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other officials greeted a group of them in Ramallah, where Abbas vowed to press for more prisoners to be allowed to go home.
 
"We will not sign a final peace deal with Israel until all the prisoners are released," he said. "This day is a happy day for all of us, for our people, for our families, and for our hero prisoners who were freed today to live free."

Story continues below photo gallery:
  • Prisoners released by Israel are welcomed by relatives and friends in Ramallah, West Bank, Dec. 31, 2013. 
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) speaks as he welcomes Palestinian prisoners released by Israel, in Ramallah, West Bank, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Palestinians hold posters depicting Palestinian prisoner Naim Shawamreh as they wait for the released prisoners to arrive in Ramallah, West Bank, Dec. 30, 2013.
  • A prisoner (R) released from an Israeli prison is welcomed by relatives in Ramallah, West Bank, Dec. 31, 2013. 
  • Prisoners released by Israel celebrate upon their arrival in Ramallah, West Bank, December 31, 2013.
  • A prisoner released from an Israeli prison (C, back to camera) is welcomed by relatives in Ramallah, West Bank, Dec. 31, 2013. 
  • Relatives of Palestinian prisoner Rami Barbakh, who has been held by Israel since 1994, celebrate ahead of his expected release in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Dec. 30, 2013. 

But the release has angered many Israelis, including some member of Netanyahu's Cabinet, who view the former prisoners as terrorists. Families of some of their victims demonstrated after the announcement, with some protesting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence and at the home of one released prisoner in East Jerusalem.
 
Netanyahu says the decision to free them was not easy.
 
"Leadership is being judged by its ability to execute tough decisions, decisions which are taken no matter how tough they are," he said. "The state of Israel has a strategic interest in negotiations which aim to reach an agreement which will end the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict."
 
The newly freed Yakoub says he, too, wants peace.
 
“My wishes are the wishes of every Palestinian, which is basically the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation from our land and the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
 
Explaining that he is through fighting, Yakoub says he studied political science while in prison, and that he wants to help the people of the impoverished Qalandia Refugee Camp via economic and social programs.
 
With a final group of 26 Palestinians set to be released in April, which will bring the total number to 104, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to travel to the Middle East this week, where he will propose a framework for final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
 
A State Department spokeswoman gave no details of the framework Monday, other than saying it would address all core issues between the two sides.
 
After a three-year break, Israeli and Palestinian officials resumed peace talks in July, when Israel agreed to the prisoner release and the Palestinians dropped their demand that Israel stop settlement construction before final status talks are held.
 
Kerry, who has made a Middle East peace agreement a top foreign policy goal, leaves for Jerusalem Wednesday and will then proceed to Ramallah.
 
The secretary of state has made frequent trips to the region in the past year.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs