Abbas receives 198 Palestinians freed by Israel (Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Ramallah (Palestine), Aug 25 (Xinhua) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Monday received 198 Palestinian prisoners freed by Israel early in the day as a goodwill gesture. The release of the prisoners followed talks two weeks ago between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas during which Olmert had offered to free 200 Palestinians held in Israeli jails as a goodwill gesture.

Among the freed prisoners was Saeed al-Ataba, who served the longest term of 32 years in Israeli jail and Abu Ali Yatta who spent 29 years. Prominent Fatah leader and former legislator Husam Khader was also released Monday.

Al Ataba and Yatta had been arrested for their involvement in violent attacks on Israeli solders that resulted in death or injuries.

As soon as the four buses carrying the released prisoners arrived at al-Muqata’a, the headquarters of the Palestine National Authority (PNA) in Ramallah, many youths and children climbed the buses to kiss and hug the freed prisoners.

“This is a happy moment to see prisoners released from Israeli jails, but this happiness is incomplete, it will be completed when all the prisoners in Israeli jails are released,” said Samir, 23, a relative of one of the prisoners.

According to the official figures, Israel is holding around 11,000 Palestinians in its jails, the vast majority of whom were arrested during the second Intifada (uprising) that erupted against Israel in late September 2000.

Men and women, relatives of the freed prisoners were seen dancing and singing while waving the Palestinian flags and those of President Abbas’ Fatah movement. Huge poster pictures of al-Ataba and Yatta were pasted on the walls.

Al-Ataba put a wreath of flowers on the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who died in November 2004.

Other dozens of the freed prisoners also stood in front of Arafat’s grave at al-Muqata’a, read holy Islamic verses and kissed it.

Abbas was seen coming out of his office waving to the freed prisoners. He stood among the crowds, while receiving each prisoner with kisses and hugs.

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