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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid