Joyful Palestinians celebrate security prisoners’ release

Twenty-one freed men embrace loved ones at Ramallah presidential compound.

prisoner release kiss on forehead 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
prisoner release kiss on forehead 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
RAMALLAH – El-Bireh didn’t sleep on Tuesday night.
It was 2:20 a.m. when a parade of decorated cars, accompanied by fireworks and loudspeaker filling the air with music, rushed to the house of the newly freed prisoner Mousa Quran in the city adjacent to Ramallah.
Sirens, celebratory gunshots and traditional chants were heard as hundreds of relatives and friends gathered to meet the freed detainee.
Palestinian flags, lights and posters of Quran decorated his house and his street.
At the same time, cheers, applause and shouts of joy were heard in several other cities and at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, as Israel released 26 longterm Palestinian prisoners in the early hours of Wednesday.
Five went directly to the Gaza Strip.
The release is the second of four rounds of prisoner releases. The first batch was released in August.
As part of the renewed peace talks, Israel agreed to free 104 prisoners who were detained before the Oslo agreement was signed 20 years ago.
Families of detainees, who came from various West Bank cities in the evening, danced for hours at the presidential compound while they waited for their loved ones to arrive.
“Israel deliberately chooses an extremely late hour to release the prisoners, we’ve been waiting for a long time, and we will wait till the morning, if we have to,” Umm Khaled, an aunt of a released detainee, told The Jerusalem Post. Women wore traditional dresses with Palestinian embroideries, usually worn in celebrations. The songs and dancing marked a celebration similar to that at weddings and and other happy occasions.
Twenty-one released prisoners appeared at a podium in the presidential compound alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, moments after they honored the late president Yasser Arafat whose grave lies a few meters away from the podium.
As they waived to their families, Abbas vowed to release all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Among the flag-wavers were the mothers of Issa Abed Rabbo and Khaled al- Azraq, who came all the way from Bethlehem. They sat on their chairs, waiting to see their sons. “You fulfilled the promise, God bless you and save you, Abu Mazen [Abbas],” Amoonah, Abed Rabbo’s mother, said.
Prisoners Muhammad Sabbagh was surrounded by his family when he briefly talked to the press.
“We have been forgotten for a long time,” Sabbagh, detained in 1991, told the Post. “We left behind us brothers who suffer a lot, we wish that they could feel the freedom soon.”
Sabbagh said he hoped that those who were imprisoned after the Oslo agreement won’t suffer as much as his colleagues did in Israeli jails. “The leadership can accomplish much if they put the detainees on the top of their priorities.
We hope the issue of detainees is a strategy and not the exception,” he added as his nephews gathered around him.
Umm Ayman, Sabbagh’s sister, stood near the crowd in her Palestinian dress. “I want to find him a wife,” she said enthusiastically. “I still can’t believe it. He was sentenced to three life sentences plus 30 years, we never expected him to be released. We’re happy.”
Umm Ayman said she hoped that her detained son will have the same fate as his uncle and soon be freed. She expressed joy and sadness at the same time as her brother is released but her son remains in Israel prison.
Ex-detainee Muhammad Torokman from Jenin couldn’t hold back his tears as he embraced his family.
“I feel like a person who just breathed freedom and was re-born again, after 21 years of suppression and deprivation of jail,” Torokman said as his niece hugged him.
Released prisoner Rafe Karaja was in a rush to go home. His father, Farhoud, said, “First thing I want to do is to put my son in his mother’s lap. She’s sick and couldn’t make it to the Mukata [presidential compound].”
Farhoud Karaja said his son spent 28 years away from home.