While Israel is in turmoil, the Palestinian spirits are soaring: A day before the scheduled release of 26 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli
prisons, their relatives in Gaza and in the West Bank were thrilled they will soon see their long-lost loved ones.
"We feel like we're in a dream," Hawla Azraq, sister of Khaled Azraq who killed Shimon Cohen in 1991, told Ynet. "My brother has been in jail for the last 24 years, and he's now 48 years old. It's a great achievement for us not only as a family, but as a people, that these prisoners are about to be released."
The sister explained that the Palestinian issue is important, but that human issues, involving the Palestinian prisoners, some of whom have spent decades in Israeli prisons, are no less important. She stressed that the relatives are grateful to the Palestinian leadership for their insistence on the release of prisoners jailed prior to the Oslo Accords
In Bethlehem's refugee camp, al-Aida, preparations for Azraq's return are in full motion, and a great celebration is planned to welcome the prisoner.
"We want Khaled to return and live a normal life, the same as anyone," she said.
The sister also said that the release may further the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"These prisoners pose no threat to Israel's security. Peace is not some words signed on a piece of paper. Peace should be in the hearts and minds of people on both sides. If we Palestinians feel our lives are taking a turn for the better – then clearly we'll have more trust in this peace. This release will definitely boost this trust."
Hussein Turkeman, cousin of Mohamed Turkeman who killed Moti Biton in 1992, commented on the rage which pervades many Israeli circles regarding the imminent release.
"It's all a matter of periods and stages. There was a period of armed resistance and intifada in which both sides killed each other and now we're in a completely different stage," he said.
He explained that his cousin, a Fatah
member, now supports the peace process. "If there's a peace process then they should be let go and come back home. This is the essence of a peace process – that each side forgives the other for the past."
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