“We salute Hizb Allah and its leader (Sayyid) Hasan Nasr Allah. May God bless him and increase the likes of him,” said Hajj Muhammad Abd al-Qadir Qazzaz upon hearing that his son, Amjad, would be among the prisoners to be released on Thursday.
“The man (Nasr Allah) succeeded when all Arab leaders failed. He reminds us of the great and heroic characters of our glorious Islamic past,” said Qazzaz.
His remarks are echoed everywhere in the streets of the occupied West Bank where news of the prisoner swap has, for the time being, overshadowed other chronic issues such as Israel's construction of the barrier cutting off parts of the occupied West Bank.
“He is a real man, he is better than all Arab leaders combined,” said Hajj Sulayman Katalu.
“What have the Arab leaders done for us? Nothing.”
One Palestinian student from Bir Zeit University said that Nasr Allah was a hero to the Palestinian people.
“I think he already occupies a conspicuous place in the hearts of the Palestinian people. I believe that if you take a random survey now and ask people who do they support more Yasir Arafat or Nasr Allah, a clear majority will answer Nasr Allah,” said the 23-year-old female student who asked for anonymity.
When asked why Palestinians would laud a non-Palestinian leader that much, the student said:
“You should remember that this is not a nationalistic issue. This is an Islamic issue, first and foremost, because the Aqsa Mosque does not belong to the Palestinians alone. It belongs to each and every Muslim around the world. And remember, those who liberated Palestine when it was occupied by the Crusaders were not Palestinians, or even Arabs.”
However, many people are ambivalent because the swap deal has not covered more Palestinian prisoners - especially those with longer jail terms - nor has it included female prisoners.
Palestinians from all walks of life
are praising Nasr Allah
“We are not blaming Hizb Allah. They did all they could to get the best possible deal. We tell Nasr Allah, May God bless you,” said Hajj Kamil Abu Qwaidir of Hebron.
“But we had hoped that more people would be released. God willing, more prisoners will be released in the next phase.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the Palestinian Prisoner Club, a Ram Allah-based quasi-governmental agency catering for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, said in a statement that 274 prisoners out of the 400 Israel said it would release, were supposed to finish their prison terms before the end of 2004.
The prison terms of another 70 prisoners were due to expire in 2005 and a further 25 prisoners were supposed to be freed before the end of 2006.
The statement also pointed out that Israel agreed to release only one woman, Hiyam Maghrabi, out of 74 female prisoners.
It added that the vast bulk of the 400 prisoners covered in the swap had been convicted and imprisoned on relatively trivial charges such as hurling stones at Israeli troops, violating curfews, and affiliation with student organisations.
Another important reason contributing to the Palestinians’ ambivalence is the continuation of Israeli arrests of Palestinian youths.
"Israel is deceiving the world. They are giving the impression that they are releasing a lot of prisoners. What they are doing in reality is that they are releasing people who would soon be released anyway."
Spokeswoman for the Prisoner Club
“Israel is deceiving the world. They are giving the impression that they are releasing a lot of prisoners. What they are doing in reality is that they are releasing people who would soon be released anyway,” said lawyer Amal Natshe, a spokeswoman for the Prisoner Club.
Natshe added that she expected Israel to replenish its jails sooner rather than later.
“Today they release 400 prisoners and within a week or so, they will arrest twice that many. We are not impressed by this at all, and we do not trust the Israelis,” she told Aljazeera.net.
Like other Palestinians, Natshe called on Hizb Allah to drive a harder bargain in the next phase of the prisoner swap.
“We hope Hizb Allah will really insist that a real large number of Palestinian prisoners will be released. I am talking about people with multiple life sentences and others who have a very slim hope of getting out of jail alive.”
“And, yes, we count on Nasr Allah.”