Crowds hail 2nd group of freed Palestinian prisoners, including would-be suicide bomber

Group of 39 includes Israa Jaabis, convicted of attempting 2015 suicide bombing near Jerusalem; police disperse crowd in East Jerusalem; teenagers welcomed as heroes in Al Bireh

Palestinian security prisoners released by Israel are welcomed to the West Bank town of Al Bireh, early November 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Palestinian security prisoners released by Israel are welcomed to the West Bank town of Al Bireh, early November 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Israel released 39 Palestinian security prisoners early Sunday morning as part of the truce deal with the Hamas terror group, in exchange for the release of the second group of Israeli hostages who had been held by terrorists in Gaza for 50 days.

The released female and underage inmates all live in either the West Bank or East Jerusalem and were the second group to be returned to their homes, after 39 others were released on Friday. They had all been charged with or convicted of terror-related crimes, including attempted murder, but none were convicted of murder.

In total, 50 Israeli hostages — children, their mothers and other women — are to be released over a four-day pause in fighting in exchange for 150 Palestinian security prisoners.

Footage from the West Bank and East Jerusalem showed crowds welcoming and cheering their arrival. This was despite National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir instructing police in East Jerusalem to prevent celebrations of the releases. Some images show mounted police officers trying to disperse the crowd.

The released inmates included 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.

Jaabis was 31 in 2015 when she committed the attack after being pulled over by police near the Ma’ale Adumim settlement outside Jerusalem. She had been heading into Israel where she intended to carry out a suicide bombing, according to Israeli authorities.

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)

The resulting fire caused burns to police officer Moshe Chen’s face and chest and also seriously injured Jaabis.

Last year, Jaabis filed a request with the Israel Prisons Service for a nose job to repair the damage to her face, and was rejected.

Israeli troops dispersed a crowd that gathered outside her home in East Jerusalem.

Among those released was also Nurhan Awad, who was 17 in 2016 when she was sentenced to 13.5 years in jail for attempting to stab passersby, including an Israeli soldier, with a pair of scissors in 2015 alongside her cousin, who was shot dead during the attack.

In the West Bank, hundreds of people burst into wild celebrations for a second night as a busload of Palestinian prisoners arrived early Sunday, despite efforts by Israeli security services for the release of the Palestinian prisoners not to be seen as a celebration.

Teenage boys released in the deal were carried on the shoulders of well-wishers in the town of Al Bireh.

The teenage boys were paraded through the main square, where they waved Palestinian flags as well as green banners of Hamas and yellow banners of the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “May God make them strong. May God be with the Qassam Brigades,” said one of the boys, referring to Hamas’s military wing.

The deal is the first one to have been made following October 7, when Hamas burst into southern Israel, killed at least 1,200 people and seized some 240 hostages.

The deal provides for the truce to be extended by an extra day for every ten additional Israeli hostages released by Hamas above the initially agreed-upon 50, with three Palestinian security prisoners to be freed in exchange for each Israeli hostage freed.

Shuruq Dwayat, left, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel, is hugged by relatives as she arrives home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Bahar, early November 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Of 300 eligible prisoners who could be freed, 74 are East Jerusalem residents, while the majority are from Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank. A small number of prisoners are reportedly Gaza residents who crossed into Israel in recent years.

Many of the prisoners are affiliated with Hamas, Fatah, or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but some have no known affiliations with any groups.

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