RAMALLAH – El-Bireh didn’t sleep on Tuesday night.
It was 2:20 a.m. when
a parade of decorated cars, accompanied by fireworks and loudspeaker filling the
air with music, rushed to the house of the newly freed prisoner Mousa Quran in
the city adjacent to Ramallah.
Sirens, celebratory gunshots and
traditional chants were heard as hundreds of relatives and friends gathered to
meet the freed detainee.
Palestinian flags, lights and posters of Quran
decorated his house and his street.
At the same time, cheers, applause
and shouts of joy were heard in several other cities and at the presidential
headquarters in Ramallah, as Israel released 26 longterm Palestinian prisoners
in the early hours of Wednesday.
Five went directly to the Gaza
The release is the second of four rounds of prisoner releases. The
first batch was released in August.
As part of the renewed peace talks,
Israel agreed to free 104 prisoners who were detained before the Oslo agreement
was signed 20 years ago.
Families of detainees, who came from various
West Bank cities in the evening, danced for hours at the presidential compound
while they waited for their loved ones to arrive.
chooses an extremely late hour to release the prisoners, we’ve been waiting for
a long time, and we will wait till the morning, if we have to,” Umm Khaled, an
aunt of a released detainee, told The Jerusalem Post. Women wore traditional
dresses with Palestinian embroideries, usually worn in celebrations. The songs
and dancing marked a celebration similar to that at weddings and and other happy
Twenty-one released prisoners appeared at a podium in the
presidential compound alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,
moments after they honored the late president Yasser Arafat whose grave lies a
few meters away from the podium.
As they waived to their families, Abbas
vowed to release all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
flag-wavers were the mothers of Issa Abed Rabbo and Khaled al- Azraq, who came
all the way from Bethlehem. They sat on their chairs, waiting to see their sons.
“You fulfilled the promise, God bless you and save you, Abu Mazen [Abbas],”
Amoonah, Abed Rabbo’s mother, said.
Prisoners Muhammad Sabbagh was
surrounded by his family when he briefly talked to the press.
been forgotten for a long time,” Sabbagh, detained in 1991, told the Post. “We
left behind us brothers who suffer a lot, we wish that they could feel the
Sabbagh said he hoped that those who were imprisoned after
the Oslo agreement won’t suffer as much as his colleagues did in Israeli jails.
“The leadership can accomplish much if they put the detainees on the top of
We hope the issue of detainees is a strategy and not
the exception,” he added as his nephews gathered around him.
Sabbagh’s sister, stood near the crowd in her Palestinian dress. “I want to find
him a wife,” she said enthusiastically. “I still can’t believe it. He was
sentenced to three life sentences plus 30 years, we never expected him to be
released. We’re happy.”
Umm Ayman said she hoped that her detained son
will have the same fate as his uncle and soon be freed. She expressed joy and
sadness at the same time as her brother is released but her son remains in
Ex-detainee Muhammad Torokman from Jenin couldn’t hold
back his tears as he embraced his family.
“I feel like a person who just
breathed freedom and was re-born again, after 21 years of suppression and
deprivation of jail,” Torokman said as his niece hugged him.
prisoner Rafe Karaja was in a rush to go home. His father, Farhoud, said, “First
thing I want to do is to put my son in his mother’s lap. She’s sick and couldn’t
make it to the Mukata [presidential compound].”
Farhoud Karaja said his
son spent 28 years away from home.