Thousands Protest Israeli Government's Planned Release of Palestinian Prisoners

Family members of those killed in attacks by prisoners gather outside Ofer prison near Ramallah to demand that Netanyahu rescind decision.

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Thousands of Israelis protested Monday night outside the Ofer detention center in the West Bank against the planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners – the second of four groups to be released as part of the agreement to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

On Sunday, the cabinet approved the release of the prisoners, all of whom were sentenced to at least 30 years behind bars for attacks carried out before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.

The prisoners, several of whom were convicted of attacks in which Israelis were killed, had been brought to the Ofer facility earlier in the day, ahead of their scheduled release on Tuesday.

Some 1,500 people gathered outside the prison, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rescind the decision. Among the protestors were family members of the victims who held up pictures of their loved ones.

According to the list of prisoners slated for release, five of them are residents of Ramallah and El Bireh, five are from Jenin and the refugee camp there, three from Nablus, three are from Hebron, three from Bethlehem, one is from Qalqilya and five are from the Gaza Strip.

As in the first round of the prisoner release, the list omits Israeli Arab prisoners and those from East Jerusalem, even though the list of long-time prisoners contains 14 Israeli Arabs and another 10 from Jerusalem.

Among the prisoners slated for release are Issa Abed Rabo, who in 1984 was convicted of murdering students Revital Seri and and Ron Levy, both 23, near the Cremisan monastery south of Jerusalem. Rabo is the longest-serving prisoner on the list.

Mustafa and Ziyad Ganemat of Hebron, convicted of murdering Meir Ben Yair and Michal Cohen in the Massua Forest near Beit Shemesh in 1985, are also due for release. The list also includes Hazet Saadi and Othman Bani-Hassin, who shot teachers Leah Almakais and Yosef Eliyahu of Afula at close range as they rode in their car and threw their bodies into a water cistern in the Gilboa Forest, where they were found a week later.

Additional prisoners slated for release include Mohammed Nasser and Rafa Karage of Ramallah, who were convicted in 1985 of murdering Aharon Avidar, a soldier on reserve duty, in the Ramallah market. Taxi driver David Caspi was murdered that same year. Mohammed Ashour, also of Ramallah, one of the men convicted of having murdered him, will also be released.

So will Ahmed Damouni, who was convicted of murdering reservist Amnon Pomerantz in September 1990. As Pomerantz was on his way to report for reserve duty in the Gaza Strip, he lost his way and reached the Bureij refugee camp, where a Palestinian mob lynched him. Sharif Abu Dahila, the murderer of Avi Osher, is also due to be released. Abu Dahila, who had worked in the date orchard on Moshav Massua for 15 years, stabbed Osher to death in June 1991.

Rahman Abdel Hajj, who murdered Genia Friedman, will also be released from prison. Hajj attacked Friedman and stabbed her to death in February 1992 as she was walking with her father and two friends in Petah Tikva. Also due for release are Ahmed Abdel Aziz, Osama Abu Hnana and Mohammed Turkman, who murdered Motti Bitton as he shopped in a village near Jenin in October 1992.

Asrar Samarin and Musa Kara’an, who shot Tzvi Klein in December 1992 as he was driving to his home in the settlement Ofra to light Hanukkah candles, will also be released. Shabir Kassem Hazem, who, together with Abu Musa Salem Ali, murdered Holocaust survivor Isaac Rothenberg with an axe at a construction site in Petah Tikva, will also be released. Ali was released in the first round of 104 prisoner releases.

The list includes several prisoners who were tried after the Oslo Accords were signed, though the murders themselves took place beforehand.

Israelis hold signs as they take part in a protest against the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails outside Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 28, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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