Israel Frees 255 Palestinian Prisoners
Israel freed 255 Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to strengthen the hand of Fatah in its power struggle with Hamas.
Israel released more than 250 Palestinian prisoners Friday, aiming to bolster embattled President Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle with the Islamic militants of Hamas, which took control of Gaza by force last month.
Several thousand chanting, clapping Palestinians greeted the prisoners as their buses rolled into Abbas’ headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Prisoners — almost all from Abbas’ Fatah movement — were hoisted onto the shoulders of dancing supporters, before they performed noon prayers in a large, open-sided tent. “This is the beginning,” said Abbas, wearing a black-and-white checkered scarf, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. “Efforts must continue. Our work must continue until every prisoner returns to the his home.”
Israel holds about 9,200 Palestinian prisoners, most of whom were arrested during the past seven years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Almost every Palestinian family has had a member in Israeli jails at some point, and the fate of the prisoners is one of the most emotionally charged issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Israel refuses to free inmates serving time for wounding or killing Israelis. None of the prisoners being freed Friday was directly involved in attacks on Israelis, according to Israeli officials.
Given that these were non-violent offenders, there’s likely to be little direct harm here and it’s not inconceivable that it will achieve its desired effect. It seems more likely, though, to demonstrate how powerful Hamas is and prove, once again, that terrorism is the only way to get concessions from the Israelis. And, if the fear of Hamas coming back to power got Israel to do this, just think what Hamas could achieve given free reign?