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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid