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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid