“We didn’t do anything against the Palestinian Authority. They promised us we could come and live in Jericho, not sit in bad conditions in a jail,” said detainee Nasser Abayat by telephone from his cell on Saturday.
Abayat and 14 others are part of a group of 19 Palestinians wanted by Israel who were jailed in Jericho by the Palestinian security forces on 4 August.
Following talks with the Palestinian Authority, two-thirds of them came to Jericho voluntarily, believing they would not be jailed and would be allowed to live and work in the town under the control of the security services.
The remaining six were arrested by the Palestinian security forces and transferred to the jail in a deal brokered by the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
“We are with the hudna (truce) and we are not going to break it,” Abayat said, referring to the three-month ceasefire declared at the end of June by the main militant groups.
Nearly all the prisoners are from the West Bank cities of Jenin, Ramallah and Bethlehem and most are members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s mainstream Fatah faction.
Groups denounce Israeli ‘farce’
Meanwhile, Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad slammed an Israeli agreement to hand over control of four West Bank towns to Palestinian security forces as a “farce” on Saturday.
“Israel is tricking the world into believing that its army is pulling out of Palestinian towns”
Mohammad al-Hindi, leader of Islamic Jihad
“The Israeli army will redeploy around these towns, pretending to withdraw. It’s a farce because Israel just wants to hide its aggression and continue building the wall,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, referring to the security wall being built by Israel across the West Bank.
“Israel is tricking the world into believing that its army is pulling out of Palestinian towns, as it has already tricked the world over the release of Palestinian prisoners,” said Mohammad al-Hindi, leader of Islamic Jihad.
So far Israel has freed only a few hundred of the estimated 6000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails, despite the militants’ demand for all to be released in return for the three-month truce they declared on 29 June.
A spokesman for Palestinian security chief, Mohammad Dahlan, said Israel would hand over control of Jericho, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Tulkarem to the Palestinian Authority in the next two weeks.
Israeli military sources however, said that “for the moment” only the transfer of control of Jericho and Qalqilya would be