39 Palestinians released under hostage deal return home

39 Palestinians released under hostage deal return home

on November 26, 2023

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A bus transporting Red Cross staff and Palestinians prisoners released from Israeli jails in exchange for hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, drives through supporters holding the Hamas flag in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank early on November 26, 2023. Hamas on November 25, released a second group of Israeli and foreign civilians it had been holding hostage in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, after an hours-long unexpected delay set nerves on edge. Israeli authorities said 13 Israelis and four Thai citizens had returned to Israel. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

JERUSALEM, Nov 26, 2023 (AFP) – Prison authorities in Israel announced early Sunday that they had released 39 Palestinian detainees, after Hamas freed 13 hostages under an agreement that came into force on Friday.

The freed Palestinian prisoners are all women and people under the age of 19, while the hostages released by Hamas are all women and children.

The agreement is supposed to last four days and allow the release of 50 Israelis and 150 Palestinians.

The exchange, which took place on Saturday, followed an initial swap on Friday when Hamas released 13 Israelis, all women and children, while Israel freed 39 Palestinian detainees, also all women and children.

Celebrations in East Jerusalem welcoming the released Palestinian prisoners were muted, amid heavy Israeli police presence.

The most prominent Palestinian released is Israa Jaabis, 37, who was convicted of detonating a gas cylinder in her car at a checkpoint in 2015, wounding a police officer. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Armed Israeli security forces stood by her house as she returned.

Jaabis’ photo, showing her withered fingers and partially burnt face, is regularly used in demonstrations to illustrate the suffering of Palestinian prisoners.

“I’m ashamed to talk about rejoicing when the whole of Palestine is wounded”, Jaabis told journalists in her living room, alongside her 13-year-old son.

“They must release everyone,” she said.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, crowds celebrated and chanted slogans praising Hamas for its role in the agreement.

The Islamist movement controls parts of the West Bank, rivalling Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club advocacy group reported that 17 Palestinians had been arrested the same day the 39 were released.