Prisoners' families eagerly expect swap deal with Israel

13:36, December 17, 2009      

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by Emad Drimly, Saud Abu Ramadan, Sami Ajrami

The 75-year-old Palestinian woman Ghalia Dawood used to spend several hours in her eldest son Ibrahim's room, looking at his pictures and recalling the days when he was at home.

She is all the time tracking the news on the radio and television, hoping to know any good news related to a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel.

Dawood, better known as Om Ibrahim, lives in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip. She said with anxiety that she hopes to see her son, who has spent several years in an Israeli jail, released soon in the prisoner swap deal.

"I always stay near the television, and sometimes I fall asleep when waiting for news saying that the prisoners exchange deal has been finalized and the prisoners will be released soon," said Om Ibrahim.

During the past few weeks, reports over the prisoner swap deal have been conflicting. Some said the deal is imminent, while others said the deal is far from completion.

According to the swap deal mediated by Egypt and recently Germany, Gaza ruler Hamas demands the release of 1,000 prisoners to release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who has been heldin Hamas captivity since June 2006.

The conflicting reports create mixed feelings of optimism and pessimism, especially among mothers and children of the prisoners, who are expected to be part of the deal.

The Palestinians are split into those who are optimistic that the deal is to be completed soon and those who believe that it will take a long time.

Hamas, the main captor of the Israeli corporal, is demanding the release of 1,000 prisoners, including 450 prisoners with long sentence terms, whom Israel said have been involved in killing Israelis.

According to Palestinian official figures, there are 10,000 Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israeli jails. Among them, 319had spent more than 15 years, 109 more than 20 years and 13 prisoners even more than a quarter century behind the bars.

Om Ibrahim said that her son Ibrahim was arrested by Israel when he was only 14 years old, adding that now he is 48 years old.

Om Ibrahim last saw her eldest son over four years ago. "I hope I could see him for even one minute," she said.

Ibrahim has a twin brother, who got married and has eight children. His twin brother has become grandfather, "while my son Ibrahim is still in prison," she said sadly.

The Palestinian families of the prisoners are following the news of the swap deal with eagerness and anxiety. They pray and hope for every minute that they can see their beloved released soon.

Om Jamal Irgayeg, a 61-year-old Palestinian mother who lives in eastern Gaza city al-Shaaf neighborhood, cries as soon as she remembers her son Jamal.

"I hope I could see Jamal released with other prisoners as soon as possible," she said. Jamal has spent 20 years in Israeli jails.

Om Jamal, as well as thousands of mothers in Gaza, had not seen their children for more than four years, due to a tight Israeli blockade imposing on the Gaza Strip after Shalit was kidnapped in a cross-border attack.

"All what I hope is to keep living until I see my son Jamal released. I really want to see him to be married, have a family and children like his brothers and sisters," said Om Jamal.

Every week, dozens of families demonstrate in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, calling on the international organization to help release their beloved imprisoned in Israeli jails.

The Palestinian center for surveys and studies on prisoners in Israeli jails said that the prisoners with long sentence terms are more concerned about their parents due to the tension before finalizing the prisoners' swap deal with Israel.

On Monday, local media reports said Egypt has invited leaders of Hamas to Cairo in the coming days to resume the indirect talks and finalize the deal, adding that it is possible to finalize the swap deal in a week.

However, Hamas sources denied these allegations and Hamas leaders said "finalizing the deal would need more time."

Source: Xinhua
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