Gaza prisoner's family delighted as she'll be freed soon

13:59, October 01, 2009      

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The mother of Fatima al-Zeg, a Palestinian female imprisoned in an Israeli jail, burst with joyful ululation as soon as she heard Gaza Strip ruling Islamic Hamas movement's announcement that her daughter will be one of 20 females prisoners that will be released soon.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told a news conference in Gaza on Wednesday that a deal has been reached with Israel through the Egyptian and German mediators that 20 female prisoners will be released from Israeli jails for information about captive Israeli soldier in Gaza Gilad Shalit.

Happiness and joy dominated al-Zeg's house in the neighborhood of Sheja'eya in eastern Gaza City after hearing the pleasant news. According to Abu Zuhri, al-Zeq is the only female prisoner from Gaza that will be released, where the 19 other female prisoners are from the West Bank.

"I'm really so happy that Fatima will be released, I will finally see her soon," said Fatima's husband Mohamed al-Zeg. "We were just watching television as usual and I couldn't believe my ears when I heard my wife's name that she will be one of the 20 women to be released."

Fatima al-Zeg, better known as Omer Mahmoud, 40 years old, mother of four children, was arrested by Israeli security forces at Erez crossing between Gaza Strip and Israel in May 2007. She had been pregnant at that time and she gave birth to her fourth baby boy Youssef in an Israeli hospital in January, this year.

Youssef stayed with her custody as she was in prison, where he became the youngest prisoner in the world. Mohamed al-Zeg said his wife Fatima was arrested as she was coming back with her nephew who had a surgery at an Israeli hospital in 2007.

"I missed my youngest son that I have never seen before," said Mohamed al-Zeg, as Fatima's mother was holding and kissing a picture of her daughter. "Thanks to Allah [God] that I will finally hold my son, I had lost hope that I could see him and my wife one day. I believe that movement will be so exiting."

According to Gaza-based human rights groups, Israel is holding in its jails 60 female prisoners. One of Hamas conditions to hand Israel information about Shalit is to free a number of prisoners, said Abu Zuhri, adding that "this is a first step towards freeing all our prisoners from the Israeli occupation's jails."

Abu Mujahid, spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a militant group, which is one of Shalit's captors, said that the deal is to give Israel a one-minute video tape showing the captive Israeli soldier alive for releasing 20 female prisoners from its jails.

Shalit was 20 when he was captured. He has been in Hamas and the PRC captivity since June 2006, when militants carried out an armed attack on an Israeli army base just outside southeast Gaza Strip. Shalit was abducted, while two Israeli soldiers and four Palestinian militants were killed.

Since he was captured, Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip and restricted the Gaza Strip population's movement. Israel tightened the blockade after Hamas seized control of the impoverished enclave in June 2007, and closed down all the border crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

"Since the beginning of the closure, we were not able to leave the Gaza Strip to visit Fatima in her jail, so our contacts were only through letters we exchanged through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)," said al-Zeg, as he received neighbors who came to say congratulations.

Hamas and other captors demanded the release of around 1,000 prisoners, including 450 prisoners, who spend long term sentences in Israeli jails and are described by Israel "prisoners with hand on their blood." Hamas also demanded to release women, children and sick prisoners.

"Even if Fatima and the other 19 women are released, our happiness would be incomplete because we want to see all male and female prisoners are freed and all Israeli prisoners will be closed," said Fatima's mother. "We hope that the prisoners exchange deal will be finalized soon."

Abu Zuhri said that Gaza Hamas leaders handed the office of the ICRC in Gaza city a list of the 20 female prisoners that Israel will free soon, adding that "this is a great achievement that all the Palestinians should be proud of, and the list including prisoners from all factions without any discrimination."

Israel is still holding in its jails around 11,000 Palestinians, they were arrested after the Palestinians signed Oslo agreement with Israel in 1994. But most of them were arrested after the Palestinian Intifada of al-Aqsa, or Uprising, erupted against Israel in late September 2000.

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