After weeks of cabinet discussions, protests and High Court petitions, 26 Palestinian prisoners were released tonight as part of an Israeli gesture to the Palestinian Authority in the wake of resuming peace talks.
Two convoys left the Ayalon Prison tonight en route to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The first convoy, carrying 15 prisoners, reached the Erez checkpoint and shortly after 1 am was allowed to cross into Gaza. The second, carrying 11 prisoners, initially arrived at the Ofer Prison and from there headed to Ramallha after passing through the Beitunia checkpoint.
The prisoners were transported in vans with tinted windows to avoid the semblance of a victorious release.
Activists protesting the release tried to block the convoy’s way but were soon removed from the area. Meanwhile, a Color Red siren sounded in Sderot and the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. A rocket landed in an open area.
Several hundred Palestinians welcomed the prisoners at the Beitunia checkpoint.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed a crowd of 1,000 people at the Mukataa in Ramallah. “We welcome our brothers who have left the darkness of prison into the light of freedom and tell them they are the first but there are other brothers who too will leave soon. We shall not rest until they are all with us.” The prisoners first visited the grave of Yasser Arafat. Read more here.