PA frees 6 Hamas prisoners on hunger strike in Hebron

Israel Radio reports some of released prisoners were involved in terror attacks in which Israelis were killed.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
January 6, 2011 19:48
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

Prison jail generic. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday ordered the release of six Hamas detainees who were on hunger strike in a PA prison in Hebron.

Israel Radio reported that one of the prisoners, Wael al-Bitar was involved in a terror attack near Kiryat Arba in which 4 Israelis were killed, and another of the prisoners was involved in a Dimona area terror attack.

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Bitar had also been imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority in the past and released after which he returned to terrorist activities, according to the Israel Radio report.

The six men were identified as Bitar, Majdi Obaid, Ahmed al-Uwaiwi, Muhanad Nairoukh, Wisam Qawasmeh and Mohammed Sukiyeh.

 The PA security forces said the Hamas detainees were released on the direct orders of Abbas and in accordance with an old ruling by the PA's High Court of Justice.

According to a PA security official, the men were not released earlier for "security reasons related to their personal safety" – apparently out of fear that they would be arrested by Israel.

The official claimed that the Hamas detainees went on hunger strike on instructions from the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip and Syria with the aim of embarrassing the PA.



"Unfortunately, Hamas exploited this humanitarian case in an ugly way to advance its own interests," the PA security official charged.

Kamel Hmeid, the PA governor of Hebron, said that Abbas decided to release the Hamas men out of concern for "national unity" and to pave the way for ending the crisis between Fatah and Hamas.

"This year is the year of national unity," Hmeid said, referring to ongoing efforts to solve the Fatah-Hamas dispute. "We are hoping to end internal divisions and secure the release of all prisoners [in PA and Hamas jails]."

The governor appealed to Hamas to release all Fatah inmates who are also on hunger strike in its prisons in the Gaza Strip. He also called on the Islamist movement to stop the "incitement" against Fatah and the PA in the West Bank.

Hamas welcomed the release of the six detainees and called on the PA to release all the Hamas supporters from its prisons, A Hamas official claimed that the detainees were released following the intervention of the emir of Qatar, who phoned Abbas and urged him to free them.

Hamas claims that there are hundreds of its supporters and members in various PA prisons. Hamas has conditioned the resumption of reconciliation talks with Fatah on the release of all its men.

The decision to release the six Hamas men also came after leaders of the movement offered Abbas their condolences over the death of his elder brother, Ata, in Syria earlier this week.

Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar phoned Abbas, while a Hamas delegation from the West Bank visited him in his office in Ramallah.


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