Suicide bomber 298.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The living room is bare aside from a large, framed photograph of a dark-haired, 22- year-old man with a moustache adorning one white wall. Shokri Kedra is alone, smiling up at the portrait of his son.
"I am proud of him," he says, nodding approvingly. "Prison is the price we have to pay to reach freedom."
Kedra's son, Ahmad, was imprisoned by Israel four years ago for being a member of Hamas's armed wing, Izzadine Kassam. He was also found guilty of planning to carry out a suicide bombing.
"I didn't know my son wanted to be a martyr but I was very happy when I found out," says Kedra, who returned from the United Arab Emirates soon after his son was sentenced. He has a permit to visit him once a month at Nafha prison in the Negev desert but says it's an arduous journey to travel there.
Like other Palestinian prisoner families, he hopes Ahmad will be part of an exchange deal that would see kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit released.
"I was very happy with the kidnapping," Kedra stresses. "We have 10,000 prisoners in jail and we have no other way to release them except to kidnap soldiers and exchange them. I have spoken with the press office of Hamas and they told me, 'Inshallah' my son will be among the released."
Ahmad, who was an accountancy student at the Islamic University of Gaza, is serving a 20-year sentence. His sister, Diana, a science student at the same university, says she's proud of her brother.
Abu Mujahed, spokesperson of the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the three groups holding Shalit, is adamant any exchange has to involve the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in addition to all women and children being held in Israeli jails.
"I have not seen the soldier but I can tell you on good authority he is very healthy. I can't say anything about whether or not he is injured," he said. "He is being looked after according to Islamic tradition."
Abu Mujahed has a list outlining the captors' demands. "We want Israel to stop its raids and we want all arrested ministers released. We will continue our work in this matter. We had kidnappings in the past and many Palestinian prisoners were released after agreement was reached with the Israelis, so we know Israel will agree to a deal. This is not our last kidnapping; we are planning future ones. It's the only way for us."
Hammad Regeb, a Hamas spokesperson, is confident a deal will soon be reached. "Nobody knows the number of prisoners or which prisoners will be in the deal. We want all women and children released. There are two-year-old children in Israeli jails. Some of the older prisoners were arrested 25 years ago - it's enough, we want them released. Also the PLC members and ministers... Khaled Mashaal will visit Cairo after an agreement is reached. But I can't say when that will be."