Ecstatic crowds stood for hours in the heat and sun on Tuesday morning in the
east Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya to greet the 16 prisoners released there
in the prisoner swap exchange.
Crowds began gathering at 8 a.m., after
the 16 prisoners were transferred from Ofer prison near Ramallah to Mezudat
Adumim, the border police headquarters near Jerusalem, and waited tensely for
more than four hours for the prisoners to be released.
“It’s really good
that they’re being released, but I think there will immediately be two or three
more Schalits,” said Muhammed Isawiyeh, echoing the commonly- held belief among
the supporters that Hamas would soon kidnap more soldiers. “There’s still
5,000 prisoners in jail, and they saw that this works,” said the Fatah member
and community leader.
“But this is a party for the nation of Palestine...
They’ve been trying to figure out how to get them out of jail for 20 years,” he
“I’m so excited, I have tears in my eyes, I just can’t wait to hug
him,” said Halia Bazyan, whose brother Alaa al Din Radha al Bazyan was
imprisoned for 25 years for sniper attacks and active membership in an
independent terror organization.
About 300 people waved Hamas and
Palestinian flags and shot off firecrackers as they waited for the prisoners to
be released. Around noon, prisoners were released one by one in police vehicles
and driven to their homes with family members. Police escorted the
released prisoners because they were concerned that right-wing activists would
try to stop the prisoners from reaching their homes.
swarmed each of the cars as they left the border police headquarters, though
most only stopped for brief hugs and handshakes of well-wishers, as family
members cried tears of happiness. There was no violence, in contrast to the
rioting near the Ofer prison during the prisoner release.
wonderful feeling, a strange feeling, that I’m standing here about to receive
the children of Isawiya and the other prisoners and welcome them back to
Isawiya,” said Sheikh Darwish Darwish, a religious leader in the neighborhood,
just before the prisoners were released.
“This is a real celebration for
us,” he said, adding that he was optimistic that the prisoner exchange would
lead to peace.
An emotional Amin Amuchsin, the mother of Khalid Ahmad
Dawud Muhaisin, was planning a large party for the entire neighborhood to
welcome him home, and had cooked his favorite meal of baked pastries called
“I have been waiting for this day for 26 years,” she said.
Family members said Muhaisin was convicted of shooting and killing an
intelligence officer, in addition to active membership in an independent
Additional parties were planned across east
Jerusalem, including a party for two families in the Old City whose sons were
deported to Egypt but were still celebrating their release from prison. The two
men were responsible for stabbing a Jewish worshiper to death at the Kotel
Hakatan near the entrance to the Al Aqsa mosque 25 years ago, according to a
Old City resident Osama Hashima Ben Taher was imprisoned
for 17 years and came to meet the prisoners as they were released because knows
many of them personally. He recalled the way he felt just before he was
released 10-and-a-half years ago with four other prisoners, as a confidence-
building gesture to then Palestinian Authority president Yasser
“Every minute seems like years, even though you’ve already waited
years,” he recalled of the hour leading up to the release. “But they’re already
feeling like they’re in Jerusalem, they can already feel it in their
Like other celebrants, Ben Taher was adamant that the men would
not return to terror.
“These are rumors that Israel is spreading to say
that the Palestinian people are terrorists,” he said. “[The prisoners] are
looking for peace, they want to live in peace with their
Supporters unanimously agreed that the men were already older
and just wanted to live a quiet life with their family.
don’t return [to terror],” Ben Taher added. “We won’t return to be fighters, but
we are paving the way for young people to follow our path.”
the Almagor Terror Victim’s Association, 183 Israelis have died in terror
attacks perpetrated by released prisoners.