The Prisons Service released 200 Palestinian security prisoners, including
senior Hamas activist Sheikh Hassan Yousef, and 500 Israeli convicts on
Thursday, as part of a routine procedure for inmates who are close to completing
Yousef was jailed for six years, and is the father of
Mosab Hassan Yousef, who acted as a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) undercover
agent, and authored the book Son of Hamas
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Mosab Hassan Yusef converted
to Christianity after admitting that he had worked as an informer for the Shin
Bet. His father subsequently excommunicated him.
Upon Sheikh Hassan
Yousef’s return to his Ramallah home, he called for Palestinian unity, saying he
would join efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
also disclosed that he had participated in negotiations over a prisoner-exchange
deal between Hamas and Israel, adding that the negotiations stopped about a
month ago because of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s refusal to accept the
“Israel is waging a war not only against Hamas, but
also against the entire Palestinian people,” Yusef said. “Israel specifically
targets the leaders of Hamas.”
The Hamas leader said that his movement
would pursue the “path of liberation” and would remain loyal to the cause of the
He also denounced the continued imprisonment of 19
Palestinian legislators, 17 of them members of Hamas’s Change and Reform
Yusef said that about 40 Hamas prisoners were being
held in solitary confinement, in line with Israel’s decision to toughen the
conditions of inmates as a means of exerting pressure on Hamas to release IDF
soldier Gilad Schalit.
The Hamas leader said that his movement does not
support Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’s plan to ask the UN in September to
recognize a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines.
He said that such a
step would be ineffective and added to previous UN resolutions pertaining to the
Sources in the Prisons Service dismissed reports
that Yousef was released as a gesture for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan,
stressing that the move was part of a standard practice of creating space for
On Tuesday, the Knesset’s Interior Affairs and
Environment Committee ruled that the Prisons Service would receive funds to
house 17,700 prisoners.
The committee sets the number of prisoners that
can be held in prisons twice a year.
Upon sentencing, every new inmate –
whether convicted of security or criminal offenses – is assigned an
administrative release date, which falls a little before their official release
date, in case the Prisons Service needs to create additional space to meet the
committee’s set number, as was the case this week.
In response to the
release of Palestinian security prisoners, including Hamas members, Noam Schalit
said that these were just a small fraction of the thousands who had been freed
since Hamas kidnapped his son Gilad more than five years ago.
minister and his bureau have scared the public and told them that the release of
such prisoners in exchange for a soldier would lead to a new wave of terror
attacks and the death of Israelis,” Schalit said.
He added that he and
his supporters have repeatedly stated that many freed prisoners are already at
large and that terror activity occurs irrespective of the reasons that the
prisoners have been released.
Hamas has asked for the release of 1,000
prisoners in exchange for Gilad, including those responsible for terror attacks