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Feature: Dozens of freed Hamas prisoners wed in mass ceremony in Gaza

(Xinhua)

11:16, January 19, 2012

GAZA, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Scores of grooms in black suits and brides in white dresses, arrived in a hotel in western Gaza city by cars decorated with flowers. Men and women in the ceremony were separated -- everything suggested a traditional Islamic wedding, except that the 56 newly weds were prisoners just released from Israeli jails.

The Hamas-run Wa'ed (Promise) Association for Prisoners Affairs in Gaza city organized and sponsored the mass wedding ceremony for prisoners freed on Oct. 18 in a historic swap deal reached between Hamas and Israel. Deposed Prime Minister of the Hamas government Ismail Haneya showed up at the seaside resort to congratulate the couples.

According to an Egyptian-brokered deal, Hamas an Israel agreed to free the Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit, who was in a Gaza captivity since June 2006, for the release of 1,027 male and female prisoners. The deal was implemented in two phases, one on Oct. 18 and the other after two months.

Palestinian flags were flowing at the entrance of Shlihat hotel, and the couples were wearing green scarfs written "Hamas."

Haneya said "I came here to congratulate the freed heroes and share with them their happiness and joy in the weddings of freedom and liberty." He added his government attaches importance to the issue prisoners "in the Israeli occupation jails," and exerts every possible effort to guarantee their release.

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