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)  

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
football
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?