Hamas, Gaza factions celebrate prisoners’ release in huge rally

Hamas, Gaza factions celebrate prisoners’ release in huge rally
# 19 October 2011 00:45 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. The Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, and several Palestinian factions Tuesday held a huge rally in western Gaza City to celebrate the release of 447 prisoners as part of a prisoner swap deal the movement had reached last week with Israel, APA reports.

Under the deal, Hamas Tuesday freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been in captivity in the Gaza Strip since June 2006. In return, Israel freed 477 Palestinian prisoners on the same day and will release 550 more two months later.

Hundreds of Palestinians stood on the sides of the main Gaza Strip Salhdein road linking the Rafah crossing on Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt and its northern border with Israel to greet the freed prisoners who were bused into the enclave from Egypt.

Members of al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing which captured Shalit and led the indirect negotiations with Israel on the release of Shalit, were masked and wore military uniforms deployed all over the Gaza Strip with their heavy guns.

At the green yard of al-Katiba in western Gaza City, a rally called "Loyalty to the Freed" was held in front of an unfinished construction site that was targeted by Israeli army war jets last August. Tens of thousands of people gathered at the yard waving flags of Hamas, President Mahmud Abbas’ Fatah party and other factions.

Um Mohamed Abu Ataya waved by her hand as soon as the freed prisoners arrived at the yard. The woman came to receive her son Mohamed, who had been in an Israeli prison for 19 years, where he was serving 17 life sentences.

She ululated to express her happiness as she hugged her eldest son and kissed his face and forehead. Besides her was Om Rami Oudeh, the mother of Rami, who was not among the released prisoners.

As she was holding and hugging a picture of her son, Om Rami, who came to join the huge ceremony, was not able to hide her tears as she missed her son Rami who has been in an Israeli jail for 12 years. "I hope that Rami will be included in the second phase of the deal."

While thousands were hugging and kissing the freed prisoners, waving flags, whistling and chanting slogans, the premier of the de-facto Hamas government Ismail Haneya, who led the ceremony from Rafah to Gaza said the prisoner swap deal displayed the unity of the Palestinian people.

Speaking on behalf of the freed prisoners, Yahia Sinwar, a senior leader of Hamas called on the Palestinian militant groups and al-Qassam Brigades to work on a plan very soon "to free the prisoners," adding that this plan has to be implemented very soon with all needed possibilities.

Meanwhile, Abdallah Abu Samhadaneh, a senior Fatah movement leader who spoke to the freed prisoners and the crowds on behalf of the Palestinian factions, praised the exchange deal, adding that the deal’s negotiators managed to break the Nos of the Israelis on releasing Palestinians from Jerusalem."

"I convey the greetings and congratulations of President Abbas to the heroes of struggle and resistance," said the Fatah official, adding that the Fatah movement vows to continue the struggle " until the release of the last prisoner in the Israeli prisons."

Tayseer Bordini, a Fatah freed prisoner who had spent 18 years in an Israeli jail, said that all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails "are waiting for their freedom no matter what the means will be," referring to using all means of struggle to release the prisoners.

Militants fired into the air outside the homes of the freed prisoners all over the Gaza Strip, while young children fired fire works in the main streets as women cried and dozens of people began to visit the prisoners in their houses to congratulate their release.