Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The crimes of the latest batch of Palestinian prisoners released

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In July Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners in order to persuade the Palestinian Authority to return to negotiations. The first group of 26 Palestinian prisoners were released in August, and today Israel released another 26 prisoners, all of whom were convicted of murder before the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed. A third group of prisoners are expected to be released in December/January, and another in March/April.

Israel approved the prisoner release on Sunday, the names of the prisoners were released on Monday, and on Tuesday Israel's High Court rejected an appeal by the Almagor Terror Victims Association to stop the prisoner release. There have also been protests in Israel against the prisoner release. On Monday night, 3000 Israelis demonstrated outside the Ofer prison, and many shouted, "Jewish blood is not cheap".

The crimes of the Palestinian prisoners released today are shocking with all having committed murder including some who kidnapped and then axed, tortured or burned their victims to death. All were supposed to be serving life sentences for their crimes. Israel's agreement to free these prisoners is a strong reminder of the painful price Israel is willing to pay for the prospect of peace with the Palestinians. The details of the Palestinian prisoners' crimes were outlined in a Jerusalem Post report:

"Damouni Saad Mohammed Ahmed will be released to the Gaza Strip this week more than 20 years after he was convicted of taking part in the brutal lynching of IDF reservist Amnon Pomerantz, who took a wrong turn into a refugee camp in the coastal territory in 1990 - he was beaten to death before his car was set alight by firebombs.

Shakir Alifu Musbach Nufal will be released to his home in the West Bank this week, some 27 years after he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the kidnapping and murder of then- 21-year-old IDF soldier Shaltiel Akiva on Passover night in 1985.

Two Fatah terrorists, Samarin Mustafa Kalib Asrar and Kra'an Azat Musa Musa, were convicted in the 1992 abduction and murder of Israeli soldier Tzvi Klein in the West Bank in 1992.

Two men sentenced in the killing of IDF reservist Aharon Avida in 1985 will also be released.

Yosef Mahmad Haza Haza was only 17 when he and a friend murdered hikers Leah Elmakayis and Yossi Eliyahu at a forest on the Gilboa mountain range in 1985. Abed al Raba Nimr Jabril Issa is also set to be released following his conviction for the murder of hikers Revital Seri and Ron Levy in 1984.

Fatah member Abu-Dahila Hasan Atik Sharif will be released to the West Bank 21 years after his arrest for the murder of Avi Osher, who employed him for 15 years at his Jordan Valley farm before Sharif beat and stabbed him to death.

Nablus native Muaid Salim was arrested in 1992 for being part of a cell that swam from Aqaba in southern Jordan to Eilat, where they then killed Yosef Shirazi, an unarmed 62- year-old security guard at the Institute for Marine Sciences.

Sabbag Ahmed Mahmud Mahmed was sentenced to life in prison in 1990 for torturing and murdering three Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.

The list includes Amer Massoud Issa Rajib, one of those convicted in the murder of Ian Feinberg, who was hacked and shot to death in April 1993 in the Gaza Strip, where he had been working on economic revitalization plans for the area."

A Haaretz report added:

"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...

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.

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."

Today thousands of Palestinians gathered in Ramallah to celebrate the 21 prisoners being  released to the West Bank, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas greeted the prisoners at a welcoming ceremony. In Gaza, some 300 people gathered ahead of the release to welcome the five prisoners at the Erez Crossing, signs read, "we will never forget our heroes."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that the decision to release the prisoners "is one of the toughest decisions" he has made. He told a Likud-Beytenu faction meeting, "I am certain that all the prime ministers who made this decision before me agonized over it as well, due to the injustice of villains being released before they serve the full term of their sentences. My heart is with the bereaved families, and it pains me. This decision is a necessity, given the reality in which we live."

Sharyn Mittelman


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