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Prisoner welcoming party Photo: Hassan Shaalan
Prisoner welcoming party Photo: Hassan Shaalan
 
 

Israel-Arab freed in prisoner release: Talks futile while prisoners still in jail

Two days after release of 26 Palestinian security prisoners, Ynet speaks with five Israeli Arabs, residents of Jerusalem, who have been freed as part of Israel's goodwill gesture to Palestinians. 'Those who want peace must forget the past and look to the future'

Hassan Shaalan
Published: 01.01.14, 09:25 / Israel News

Five of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released Monday night from Israeli prisons as part of US-brokered peace talks were Israeli-Arab residents of east Jerusalem.

 

East Jerusalem prisoners are welcomed home (Photo: Hassan Shaalan)
East Jerusalem prisoners are welcomed home (Photo: Hassan Shaalan)

 

Their inclusion into the final group of Palestinian security prisoners set free by Israel was far from certain, and only hours beforehand the High Court rejected a petition that attempted to halt their release. Now, the five claim that "there is no point for peace negotiations to go forth if Israel refuses to release all of the Israeli-Arabs."

 

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"I am overjoyed that I have returned to my family," Abu Hadir Muhammad Yassin, a Shuafat resident who was arrested in 1988 for the murder of Yigal Shahaf, told Ynet.

 

The East Jerusalem welcoming home party (Photo: Hassan Shaalan)
The East Jerusalem welcoming home party (Photo: Hassan Shaalan)

 

"So many people I loved have passed away while I was in jail. I never believed that we would be freed. It was all a very pleasant surprise for us," he added.

 

Da’agna Nufal Mahmad Mahmoud, who served 20 years for the murder of Sara Sadeh in Holon, said he could barely recognize his family upon his return to his village.

 

"Everything has changed. The day I was arrested I left behind very young children. Now I return and see that most of them have already wed. It was overwhelming to hug them and my grandchildren for the first time."

 

Despite his sentimentality, Da’agna expressed solidarity with his former cell-mates and lamented the Arab world's leadership, saying "I cannot celebrate while the rest of the prisoners – especially those who were already forgotten and the prisoners of '48 – are still in jail."

 

According to Ahmed Halef, a resident of Jerusalem's Old City who was imprisoned for 21 years, "our people love freedom. I can only hope that soon the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital will be recognized.

 

"The protest held across from my house as well as all the others will do no good. Much like the bereaved families have victims, so do we. Those who want peace must forget the past and look towards the future."

 

Jamal Abu Gamel, who served 19 years for attempted murder, also expressed surprise at his release, and said "it is true I was in jail for 19 years, but they felt like a day. I would be willing to give my own freedom for that of another prisoner."

 

 

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