Hamas Embarrassed as Eight Women Stay Behind in Israeli Jails

After news of agreement broke , Hamas announced that all 27 female prisoners will be released. However, the number of Palestinian female prisoners currently stands at 35.

Hamas' promise to secure the release of all female Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, will fall short as eight women prisoners will not be released this week.

After news of the agreement broke last Tuesday, Hamas swiftly announced that all 27 female prisoners will be released. However, the number of Palestinian female prisoners, held for security-related convictions, currently stands at 35.

Hadija Abu Ayash - Pannet - October 2011
Courtesy of Pannet

Three of the women on the list are Arab Israelis, and four more are Palestinian, held until the legal proceedings against them are completed. Another prisoner is due to be released by year's end.

The three Arab Israeli women are Lina Jarbuni, from Arabeh, who is serving a 17 year sentence since 2002 for assisting Hamas in carrying out attacks; Warud Qasem, from Tira, who was sentenced to six years in 2006 for the same reason; and Hadija Abu Ayash, from Nazareth, serving a three year sentence since 2009, for stabbing her boss for nationalist reasons.

Qasem and Abu Ayash are due to be released next year but Jarbuni is not expected to be released any time soon.

The families of the women prisoners were angry and said that it was a blatant violation of the promise by Hamas, which promised that Israeli prisons would be without female Palestinian prisoners.

"When they said all of the female prisoners would be released, it was very exciting and we thought it would be a matter of days and then Lina would be with us," Lina's sister, Lamis Jarbuni, told Haaretz. "There is a terrible feeling that they forgot about them or gave up on them. We do not know what to do, and whom to turn to. I hope someone does something at the last minute and insists on the release of all the female prisoners, since nothing has happened and Shalit is still held by Hamas."

Nadia Qasem, mother of Warud, was disappointed with the announcement. "We all expected that the female prisoners would be released, and it is unclear why Hamas gave up on them. I hope they correct the mistake. Even though Warud will be freed next year, it doesn't mean she cannot be released now. She suffered enough in prison."

As for the four female Palestinian prisoners, their names do not appear on the list since they are in custody and have not been tried yet. They are Mona Qa'adan, 41, from Jenin; Busra Atwil, 18, from El Bireh; Hanya Nasser, 20, from Ramallah; and Faida Abu Sneina, 24, from Hebron. All are suspected of assisting terrorist groups.

Another prisoner is Suwad Nizal from Qalqilyah, who is due to be released in the coming days after serving a 30-month sentence.

Haaretz has learned that Hamas is embarrassed by the news that not all female prisoners will be released. A source involved in the details of the case said that Hamas asked for an updated list from NGOs and activists.

"I wonder how they carried out negotiations without all the details," the source said.

Azat Arshak, a member of the Hamas politburo, said during the weekend that Hamas will demand the inclusion of these female prisoners in the list of those to be released, and accused Israel of hiding information. However, he did not make threats about not carrying out the deal.

The Prime Minister's Office said yesterday the deal was signed and that they doubted it would be possible to add more names to the list, but if a request is made during talks in Cairo today, it will be brought to the PM and a decision will be made in consultation with defense sources.