Israel frees 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of US-brokered peace deal

For many Israeli relatives of the prisoners’ victims, the releases were experienced as a reopening of their wounds

Aida Refugee Camp, West Bank

Twenty-six Palestinian prisoners were freed by Israel in the early hours of this morning in keeping with US-brokered peace diplomacy, returning home as heroes to joyous relatives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But there was little opportunity for the Palestinian leadership to savour the gain, as hours later Israel announced plans for a new building push in occupied East Jerusalem.

Khaled al-Azrak, who killed an Israeli man, Shimon Cohen in a 1991 attack, said being free was “indescribable”, but said his joy would be incomplete till all 5,000 Palestinian prisoners remaining in Israeli jails are freed.

By agreeing to release prisoners, Israel avoided having to meet other preconditions demanded by the Palestinians such as freezing settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that it was proceeding with plans for 1,500 new housing units at Ramat Shlomo, built on expropriated Palestinian property in East Jerusalem that Palestinians envisage as their future capital.

Palestinian officials denied Israeli reports they had acquiesced to the move, seen by many as a way for the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to placate far-right opponents of the release. The settlement plans are being accompanied by an increase in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem. A three-storey building with six residential units, including one for a newlywed couple, was demolished in the Beit Hanina neighbourhood, a day after nine people were left homeless by a demolition in the same area, according to the dovish Israeli Ir Amim group.

After an official reception hosted by Mahmoud Abbas for the freed prisoners – almost all of whom had been serving life sentences for killings before the 1993 Oslo self-rule agreement – celebrations for Azrak’s return began. “It is like a dream to get my brother back,” said his brother Nasser.

However, for many Israeli relatives of the prisoners’ victims, the releases were experienced as a reopening of their wounds. Gila Molcho, whose brother Ian Feinberg, a lawyer and father of three hacked to death in Gaza while working on a EU aid project in 1993, has been distraught since learning on Monday that Masoud Amer, one of his assailants, was to be freed. “The message is that it’s OK to kill Jews, you’ll get out quickly and be a hero. And for what? A gesture. It’s terribly sad. He was one of the good guys.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee