Hamas militants celebrate 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem )
Palestinians took to the streets in Palestinian cities from Ramallah to Jabalya in northern Gaza to celebrate news of a prisoner swap in exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
The agreement, approved at an
emergency cabinet session Tuesday night, included the release of more
than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Shin Bet, Mossad, IDF heads all back Schalit deal
'1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Schalit'
Family members of prisoners fired shots in the air in West Bank cities, celebrating in the streets of Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah.
The revelers were joined by Palestinians who had been staging an ongoing protest in support of Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired guns in the air and blared their car horns to celebrate the deal.
Abdel-Karim Abu Attaya, 76, was already looked forward to a reunion with his son Mohammed, who has served 20 years in an Israeli jail for being a member of the Hamas armed wing and carrying out attacks against the Israeli occupation of Gaza, which ended in 2005.
"Happiness brought tears to my eyes," he said, adding that he would see to it that his son soon had a wife.
"I am the happiest man. I congratulate the family of Gilad Shalit as well. I hope all Palestinian prisoners will be freed," the father of eleven said.
Gunmen fired rifles and congratulations were issued from the loudspeakers of Gaza's many mosques.
"We must continue in our struggle until all prisoners are freed," said Abdallah Abu Huwaidy. Some 6,000 Palestinians are serving sentences in prisons in Israel, which Hamas refuses to recognize.
leader Khaled Mashaal hailed a deal with Israel as a "national achievement" for Palestinians.
Abu Attaya, spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees, whose fighters joined Hamas in the capture of Shalit, said militants would kidnap more Israeli soldiers until all Palestinian prisoners are freed.
"The coming weeks and month will witness more responses and more, similar operations. We will continue the same path to kidnap Zionist soldiers in order to clear all prisons," the masked spokesman said, clutching an AK 47 assault rifle.
"Today the resistance talks," an activist cried over the loudspeaker of one mosque. "Today the enemy submitted to our demands and that was just the start."
Absent from the list of prisoners, expected to be released Tuesday night, were Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, Abdullah
Barghouti, the senior Hamas engineer in Gaza responsible for dozens of
murders, Ibrahim Hamed, the head of Hamas' military wing in the West
Bank, and Ahmed Sa'adat head of the Popular Front who was responsible
for the assassination of Rehavam Ze'evi.
Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.