RAMALLAH – Palestinians started their celebratory preparations for welcoming the
prisoners due to be released on Tuesday in the first stage of the Gilad Schalit
Chief of the High Committee on Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs, Amin
Shoman, told The Jerusalem Post that the first venue for tomorrow’s reception
will be Ofer Prison, near Betunia, about 3 kilometers south of
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Thousands of people are expected to head there in the early
morning to wait for the prisoners expected to be released from Ofer to the West
Shoman said the PA minister of Palestinian prisoners’ affairs, Issa
Qaraqe, and the minister of civil affairs, Hussain al-Sheikh, will be at Ofer
alongside the Red Cross representatives to guarantee the implementation of the
deal with the Israeli authorities.
The Hamas leader in the West Bank,
Hassan Yousef, told the Post that since his movement does not have any relations
with Israel, the PA would be the one responsible for the implementation
“There were several calls between the Israeli authorities and
the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee to finalize the first stage of the
deal,” Yousef added.
After released prisoners greet their families, they
will be then taken by buses to the central reception venue, the presidential
headquarters in Ramallah.
Yousef said all Hamas members and supporters
will go there as well. It is unusual for Hamas to celebrate in the Fatah
Shoman said the released prisoners will go
first to Yasser Arafat’s mausoleum to place garlands of flowers on his grave.
Two main statements are expected there, the first one from PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and the second from a newly-released
Shoman said this prisoner might be Na’el Barghouthi, the oldest
prisoner expected to be released this week, who spent more than 30 years in
Israeli prisons serving a life sentence.
Following the speeches, the
crowd will head over to the Red Cross building in Ramallah, to show solidarity
with the prisoners’ hunger strike.
Tents were pitched and several rallies
were held there to support the hunger strike that started on September
Yousef said Hamas asked the Israeli authorities to meet the striking
Shoman also mentioned that prisoner Ahed Abu Gholmeh
is still negotiating with the Prisons Service to answer to the prisoners’
“If the Prisons Service agrees to the prisoners’ demands, the
prisoners’ hunger strike will be over,” Shoman said. “I think the released
prisoners will want to go home with their families, whom they have not hugged
Families throughout the West Bank are expected to hold
open-air festivities, where relatives and friends will come to greet the
released prisoners and congratulate them.
The head of the Palestinian
Civil Servants’ Union, Bassam Zakarneh, said the union will not give workers a
day off to participate in the celebrations.
Zakarneh, a member of Fatah,
said the union will encourage the civil servants to attend the rallies, but is
not authorized to give them the day off. He said interested people will
“They don’t need a day off for that.”
today, the same union gave workers a two-hour break to allow them to join a
rally in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners.
Civil servant Maher
Zaher, 32, criticized the union’s decision, saying this will help lessen the PA
and Fatah’s popularity in the street.
“They should show people they are
happy, even if their rival Hamas made this deal with Israel.”
believes that no clashes or violence will occur tomorrow, adding that tomorrow
is a “national celebration.”