Attempted murder, shootings, bombings: Most freed Palestinians were held for attacks

Violent crimes, including rock throwing, cited by Prison Service in cases of 64 of 117 Palestinian prisoners released in first three days of hostage deal

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Released Palestinian security prisoners (wearing grey jumpers) cheer after being released from the Israeli Ofer military facility in Baytunia near the city of Ramallah in the West Bank in exchange for hostages freed by Hamas in Gaza, on November 24, 2023. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Released Palestinian security prisoners (wearing grey jumpers) cheer after being released from the Israeli Ofer military facility in Baytunia near the city of Ramallah in the West Bank in exchange for hostages freed by Hamas in Gaza, on November 24, 2023. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Marah Bakeer, 24, was convicted by an Israeli court of attempting to stab an Israeli police officer in 2015. Rawan Nafez Mohammad Abu Matar, 29, another Palestinian woman, was imprisoned for stabbing an Israeli soldier in 2015.

They are two of the 150 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli custody over the past four days, as part of a deal to free 50 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, since being abducted from private homes and a music festival on October 7.

According to data compiled by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and Israel Defense Forces (IDF), 64 of the 117 Palestinian prisoners released on Friday, Saturday and Sunday — the first three parts of the hostage release deal — had been held by Israel for violent crimes. Compiled data from Monday’s release of an additional 33 Palestinian prisoners has not yet been publicly shared.

The 117 were released as part of Israel’s ongoing but limited truce with Hamas, during which the terror group released Israeli hostages, women and children, whom it was holding in Gaza, over four days. The truce entered the first of two extension days on Tuesday, with Hamas pledging to hand over another 20 Israeli hostages by Wednesday.

Underage and female Palestinian security prisoners — all of whom are being held or have been convicted of terror-related offenses but none of whom have been convicted of murder — were released at a ratio of three inmates per hostage freed. The prisoners were all selected from a list of 300 people chosen by the Justice Ministry and approved by the cabinet on Thursday.

The cabinet on Monday approved a further 50 names to add to the release pool, as part of the deal extension, which is continuing with the same three-prisoners-to-one-hostage ratio.

Released Palestinian security prisoners (wearing gray jumpers) who were released from the Israeli Ofer military facility in exchange for hostages freed by Hamas in Gaza, wave flags and chant slogans as they are paraded in Baytunia in the West Bank on November 24, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

According to data provided by the IPS and the Israel Defense Forces, at least 55 percent of the 117 prisoners released during the first three days of the deal had been being held for violent crimes, including 10 for attempted murder, 13 for inflicting serious bodily harm, 19 for placing a bomb or throwing an incendiary device, seven for shooting at people, and five for assault.

Ten of the 117 released prisoners were held with stone-throwing as their most serious alleged violent crime.

Several of the prisoners were identified with multiple criminal allegations. Twenty-one percent of the released prisoners were listed as affiliated with a recognized terror organization, most common among them Hamas, followed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Five were held for reasons of state security or for undisclosed illegal activities, with no additional context provided.

Seventeen of the prisoners were held only for creating “damage to the security area,” a similarly nebulous offense.

Asil al-Titi, a 23-year-old security prisoner from West Bank’s Balata refugee camp, is greeted by friends and family members shortly after she was released from an Israeli jail, late on November 24, 2023. (Zain Jaafar/AFP)

The IPS did not release compiled details on conviction status alongside the offense allegations. The master list of 300 potential prisoners to be released includes people who have been convicted by a court, as well as people being held without charges or trial. Some of the latter group may be part of the controversial Israeli practice of administrative detention.

The 86 male prisoners released during the first three truce days were aged 14 to 18, and the 31 women ranged from age 16 to 59. The majority were released to either the West Bank or East Jerusalem, in line with their residency.

While the IPS and IDF have yet to release collated information connecting the 33 Palestinian prisoners released on Monday to the reasons for incarceration, a list of their names is available.

Israa Jaabis, a Palestinian security prisoner released by Israel, is hugged as she arrives home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, early on November 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Additional released inmates include would-be-suicide bomber Israa Jaabis, 38, who was convicted of detonating a gas cylinder in her car at a West Bank checkpoint in 2015, wounding a police officer, and sentenced to 11 years in prison. While in prison, her requests that the state pay for reconstructive surgery on her nose were denied.

Jaabis claimed that her gas tank exploded at an Israeli checkpoint.

Also released on Saturday was Maysoun Musa Al-Jabali, who was imprisoned for stabbing a female Israeli soldier in 2015.

Another prisoner released Saturday was Nurhan Awad, 24, who was 17 in 2016 when she was sentenced to 13.5 years in prison for attempting to stab passersby, including an Israeli soldier, with a pair of scissors the previous year alongside her cousin, who was shot dead during the attack.

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