IDF frees Hamas man elected to PLC

Hamas: If new government fails to secure prisoners' release, we'll kidnap soldiers.

Ahmed Haj Ali, 66, a Hamas member who was elected in the recent Palestinian Legislative Council elections, was released by the IDF on Wednesday after serving five months in administrative detention. Security sources denied that it signified a change in policy or intentions to release additional recently elected Palestinians incarcerated in Israel, just days before the new Palestinian parliament is instated. According to Palestinian media reports, Ali, a resident of the al-Ein refugee camp near Nablus, was arrested by security forces in September 2005 and placed under administrative detention in the Negev. On Wednesday morning he was dropped off at an IDF checkpoint in the Hebron area. Shortly after his release, reports said, Ali declared he would work to secure the release of thousands of security prisoners in Israel. There were conflicting reports as to the number of newly-elected PLC members presently incarcerated in Israel. A security official said there are 14, the majority of whom, he said, fall under the category of having "blood on their hands." However, Reema Sayas of the Mandela Institute for Human Rights, a prisoner advocacy group, said that with the release of Ali, the number of Palestinian parliamentarians in Israeli jails had dropped to 12, nine from Hamas and three from the Fatah. Meanwhile, in an article in Tuesday's Al Ayyam newspaper, Nabil Nasser, a Hamas representative of the National and Islamic Forces Prisoners Committee, warned that if the newly-instated government failed to secure the release of Palestinian security prisoners, Hamas would resort to kidnapping Israeli soldiers. Of some 9,000 Palestinians serving time in Israeli jails, 31 stood for the PLC, according to figures on the Palestinian Central Elections Commission Web site. Among them are Fatah's Marwan Barghouti and Abu Ali Yatta, who has been in jail for more than 25 years, and West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef.