The second group of Palestinian prisoners whose freedom was secured as part of the prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel earlier this year have been released.
At exactly ten o'clock last night (Sunday, 18 December), 41 freed prisoners, who constitute Gaza's portion of the second phase of the exchange, arrived at the Rafah border crossing. At the same time, 505 prisoners from the West Bank arrived at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. The families of those released were overjoyed.
However, the military wing of Hamas said that Israel had violated the terms of the second exchange deal on several fronts and had concealed the names of those initially pencilled-in to be released. The Islamic Resistance Movement confirmed that it would go back to the Egyptians about this matter.
The Israelis released large numbers of prisoners coming to the end of their sentences. The majority of those released are from a single political faction, namely Fatah. According to political analysts, this was done as an expression of support from the Israelis for President Mahmoud Abbas, in a bid to ensure that he does not lose any popularity amongst the Palestinians.
The families of prisoners who remain in Israeli jails are continuing with their weekly sit-in at the headquarters of the International Red Cross and demanding a decent life for their loved ones, including the right to health and education. Some of these prisoners live in cells without natural light and are subject to continuous blackmail, torture and injury; Israel refuses to abide by international conventions regarding prisoners.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad