Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – Thousands of Palestinians packed Ramallah’s al-Mukhata district to welcome home 26 Palestinian prisoners released as part of the ongoing negotiation process with Israel.
The presidential compound here was in a celebratory mood all evening as prisoners’ families, friends and well-wishers waited amid music and dancing. The prisoners finally arrived in Ramallah at 1:30am on Wednesday.
Twenty-one of the prisoners went to the West Bank with the remainder returning to Gaza. All of those released had been in Israeli prisons since before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the crowd in Ramallah alongside the newly released detainees, and stressed that the prisoner issue was fundamental to any possible peace agreement with Israel.
“There will be no final agreement until all of our prisoners are out of Israeli prisons,” Abbas told the jubilant crowd.
According to Issa Qarake, the Palestinian minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, there are about 5,200 Palestinians currently in Israeli prisons.