Palestinians in Ramallah cheer Hamas as dozens more prisoners freed

Released convict sports Hamas flag as crowd chants rare praise for terror group from seat of PA’s power, despite Israeli attempts to crack down on celebrations

Palestinian security prisoner Omar Atshan hugs his mother after being released from an Israeli prison, in Ramallah on November 26, 2023. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)
Palestinian security prisoner Omar Atshan hugs his mother after being released from an Israeli prison, in Ramallah on November 26, 2023. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Palestinians in Ramallah feted the return of former security prisoners released by Israel as part of a hostage deal, offering rare praise for the Hamas terror group in the Palestinian Authority’s seat of power.

Draped in a Hamas flag, with the terror group’s green emblem tied across his forehead, Omar Atshan was greeted by hundreds as he and others arrived in Ramallah Sunday, the latest batch of 39 prisoners released in exchange for civilian hostages kidnapped by Hamas in Gaza.

In a video shared online, celebrations erupted as Atshan arrived and embraced his mother.

In response, his mother could be heard shouting, “With our soul, with our blood, we will redeem you Hamas,” a riff on a popular chant about the redemption of the al-Aqsa mosque. The crowd responded in kind.

In another video from the mass celebrations, a woman can be heard shouting, “We did not come here to celebrate, but rather to cheer and show our loyalty to the resistance [Hamas] and Gaza.”

Others carried freed prisoners on their shoulders, in a repeat of mass celebrations that have broken out across the West Bank nightly since Friday.

Over the last three days, 39 Israeli hostages and 117 Palestinian prisoners have been released, part of a deal that is slated to eventually see 50 Israeli women and children freed from captivity in Gaza, where they have been since October 7, in exchange for a four-day ceasefire and 150 Palestinian security prisoners.

Israel launched a military campaign to topple Gaza’s Hamas rulers after the terror group led an assault on southern Israel that left some 1,200 people dead, with another approximately 240 taken hostage.

The jubilation across the West Bank and East Jerusalem has taken place despite National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir instructing police in East Jerusalem to prevent celebrations.

Palestinian security prisoners (wearing grey jumpers) cheer among supporters and relatives after being released from Israeli prisons, in Ramallah on November 26, 2023. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Public celebrations for Hamas are extremely rare in Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority, led by the rival Fatah group, holds power.

The released convicts, all women or young men, had all been charged with or convicted of terror-related crimes, including attempted murder, but none were convicted of murder.

Many of those released were picked up at protests for throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at Israeli security officers, or were accused of attacking police. Atshan, who is not officially part of a terror group, was convicted of opening fire on people, according to the Ynet news site.

Others have 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.

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)

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


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.

Crowds surround a Red Cross bus carrying Palestinians prisoners released from Israeli prison, in Ramallah on November 26, 2023. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

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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