A group of terror victims’ families and their supporters, camping out outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem ahead of Monday’s scheduled release of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, were asked early Sunday by city authorities to clear their camp, but the order was later rescinded by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
The municipality had said that it “could not allow the public space to become residential” and ordered the families to clear out within a few hours, but noted that they would still be permitted to protest during daylight hours.
However, later in the day, Barkat visit the protesters, expressed his solidarity with their cause and said that he would arrange the “technical issues” needed for the demonstration to continue. Although the families erected a tent on a sidewalk outside the prime minister’s official residence in the Rehavia neighborhood of the capital, a representative said that no one was sleeping overnight at the location.
“The prime minister and [other cabinet] ministers aren’t able to deal with the families’ outcry and want to shut us up,” a spokesperson for the group, the Almagor Terror Victims Association, told Ynet news earlier.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said on Sunday he supported the protesting families and added that releasing “convicted murderers is not just.”
On Sunday, a full list was released of the 26 prisoners, all serving lengthy or life sentences for terrorist acts committed before the 1993 signing of the Oslo peace accord, including the murder of Israelis or Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israeli security services. The release, slated for Monday night, is the third of four scheduled releases of long-term Palestinian prisoners serving in Israeli jails under the framework of the ongoing, US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Five out of the 26 Palestinian prisoners to be released are East Jerusalem residents with blue ID cards, entitling them to Israeli citizenship, health insurance and other benefits, it was reported on Sunday.
Almagor, which publicized the information, said it was planning to appeal the release to the High Court, alleging that because the Palestinian prisoners are residents of Israeli territory and could receive benefits from the state after their release, granting them freedom goes against the terms of the release agreement, Army Radio reported Sunday morning.
However, a government source said the appeal would be unlikely to succeed, because despite the prisoners’ permanent residency status, “they are not defined as Israeli citizens, only residents, and therefore there is no contradiction with the agreement.”
Arab residents of East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and formally annexed in 1980, carry the blue ID cards of Israeli citizens but most, by choice, are not Israeli citizens and do not carry Israeli passports. Although they are entitled under Israeli law to take Israeli citizenship, very few choose to do so. Unlike Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem residents can move freely throughout Israel.
A list of those said to be East Jerusalem residents provided to The Times of Israel by Almagor contains the names: Abu Hadir Muhammad Yassin Yassin, who shot and killed an Israeli in Jerusalem’s Old City; Ahmad Yusuf Bilal Abu-Hassin, who murdered multiple Palestinian collaborators with Israel; Mustafa Ahmed Khaled Jumaa, who was convicted of aggravated assault and was to have been released in 2016; Da’agna Nufal Mahmad Mahmoud, who helped murder an Israeli in Holon and who, according to Almagor, is a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp; and Ahmed Ibrahim Jamal Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of attempted murder and was to have been released in 2016.