Freed Palestinian prisoners spark celebration but little hope of peace deal

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Renewed Israeli settling will likely undermine any goodwill

Deir Jarir, West Bank

In 1993, sixteen-year-old Esmat Mansour was imprisoned for helping to murder an Israeli settler who was working on a poultry farm. Today, with greying hair but excited to start a new life, he walked free as part of an Israeli release of 26 long-held Palestinian prisoners that touched off joyous welcomes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but revulsion among many Israelis.

“For sure I feel I have a new beginning,” Mr Mansour, who stressed he now believes in non-violent struggle only, said in fluent Hebrew that he learned while in prison. “On the personal and human level I feel I was born again today.” He says he hopes to get married soon and begin raising a family

The release came in advance of the planned resumption this evening of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in Jerusalem but it did little to improve the atmosphere between the two sides, which has been poisoned further by Israel’s announcement within the last week of plans to build more than 3,000 new units for settler housing in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Most of those freed had been involved in murdering Israelis or Palestinian collaborators before or soon after Israeli-Palestinian self-rule agreements were signed in 1993. Viewed by the Palestinian public as heroes who paid a price for combating occupation, they were feted with fireworks and attracted crowds in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In the vast tent his relatives erected to receive Mr Mansour in this village near Ramallah, male well-wishers munched sweet baklava pastry and drank watery coffee as women who were out of site repeatedly ululated to express their joy at his homecoming. But in Israel, the releases were traumatic for families of victims. “Today has been a very hard, very confusing day for a lot of people,” said Hedva Levy of the Israeli Almagor Association for victims of terrorism.

“The meaning of this is that their child is murdered for a second time while the terrorists family gets the terrorist back and he can murder another time,” she said. “There is no logic to releasing terrorist while nothing has happened for peace.”

Relatives jump to a vehicle carrying the freed men (AP) Relatives jump to a vehicle carrying the freed men (AP)

 

In an indication of how low expectations are for the current peace talks, even Mr Mansour, who owes his freedom to Israel’s agreement to release prisoners in advance of the negotiations, is not upbeat about them. “We as prisoners welcome the negotiations and the release of prisoners,” he says, but adds; “Any negotiations without legitimacy are doomed to failure. If the Israelis are serious, they as the occupying power must deliver what is necessary for the credibility of these negotiations. If they adhere to settlement building and block release of further prisoners and refuse to recognise international legitimacy while at the same time speaking of peace, then I think this is self-contradictory behaviour.” Mr Mansour, who wrote three books in prison, is a member of the central committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing faction that generally supports Mr Abbas.

Released Palestinian prisoner, Nehad Jondiya, hugs his sister (AP) Released Palestinian prisoner, Nehad Jondiya, hugs his sister (AP)

 

Mr Mansour said is not exactly remorseful about his role in the killing of settler Haim Mizrachi, for which he was given a twenty-two-year sentence. According to Israeli officials, Mr Mansour led the killers to Mr Mizrachi, brought rope to tie him and helped load his body into a car. “If you ask me whether I am willing to do the same thing now, I will tell you I will not repeat this act. But I don’t regret what I did. The time, the circumstances and the surroundings created this. Now the circumstances are different. There was no Palestinian Authority then and the struggle was to combat the occupation. Today there is a Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian leadership and a consensus among the leadership that we don’t undertake violence. And I am against violence.”

Ms Levy, the spokeswoman for Israeli victims, was unimpressed. “It’s lip service. He has to say he won’t do it again, otherwise he will be rearrested. But it’s clear that those freed will continue with terrorism and educate their children for terror.”

Relatives hang a banner depicting freed prisoner Jamil Nabi Annatsheh outside his house (Reuters) Relatives hang a banner depicting freed prisoner Jamil Nabi Annatsheh outside his house (Reuters)  

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
VIDEO
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit