Israel released 39 Palestinians it was holding in its Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank on Friday as part of a deal for the release of Israeli hostages Hamas took during its Oct. 7 attack—the Palestinians released were mostly teenage boys and women, a vast majority had not yet been convicted of a crime and many had been imprisoned for years.
Seventeen of the released Palestinian prisoners are minors and, of those 17, 15 are boys and two were girls, while the remaining 22 are adult women, Al Jazeera reported.
Israel holds 2,200 Palestinians in detention under its controversial “administrative detention” policy that Israel says is a counter-terrorism measure it uses against people who plan to commit future offenses, according to the AP.
The released prisoners include Iyas Khatib, 17, the son of a U.N. aid worker who was put in “administrative detention” last year based on secret evidence without being publicly charged of a crime or put on trial, the Associated Press reported.
The prisoners also include Marah Bakeer, 24, who was a 16-year-old high school student in occupied East Jerusalem when Israeli forces shot at and arrested her for allegedly trying to stab an Israeli officer, an accusation Bakeer and her family deny, Al Jazeera reported.
The 39 are part of a list of 300 Palestinians Israel said it was considering releasing as part of its deal with Hamas—some on the list were held on minor charges like throwing stones (though some were held on charges as serious as attempted murder), less than a quarter of them were convicted of a crime and most were being held on remand while awaiting a trial, the BBC reported.
Other common offenses the prisoners have been accused of include threatening security officers, entering Israel illegally without a permit, supporting terrorism and associating with hostile or unknown organizations, Al Jazeera reported.
The released prisoners were being held in Israel’s Ofer prison, which is situated in the occupied West Bank near its western border north of Jerusalem. Israeli forces began using it in 2002 and it has since housed scores of Palestinian detainees, according to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian non-governmental organization. The Israeli military court system is designed to prosecute Palestinians that violate its various military orders in occupied Palestinian territory, according to Addameer. Human rights groups allege that Israel’s military court system rules Palestinains guilty 99% of the time, according to the BBC. Addammer points to other perceived issues with the military court and Israeli prison systems, including that Israeli officers, despite being required to interrogate prisoners in their native language, allegedly often get them to sign statements in Hebrew they don’t understand and that prison officials allegedly deliberately don’t provide prisoners with necessary medical care.
750,000. That’s how many Palestinians have at one point been in an Israeli jail since 1967, according to estimates from human rights groups, the AP reported.
The release of the Palestinian prisoners was part of an agreement between Israel and Hamas that ended weeks of ferocious fighting between the two. That fighting began Oct. 7 after Hamas crossed the border of northern Gaza into Israel, killing around 1,200 and taking 240 hostage in a bloody attack. Israel responded with frequent airstrikes and a ground military incursion into Gaza. More than 14,500 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel declared war, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry. On Friday, fighting paused as part of a temporary cease-fire. As part of the cease-fire deal, Hamas agreed to release some of the hostages it took on Oct. 7, and Israel agreed to free some of its Palestinian prisoners. Along with the 39 released Palestinians, 13 Israeli hostages were released Friday. The pause in fighting—which is set to last four days, but could be extended if both sides come to further agreement—allowed trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
More Palestinian prisoners and Israeli hostages to be released. Israel has promised to release 150 Palestinian prisoners and Hamas agreed to release 50 hostages. All of those are expected to be released by the end of the four-day cease-fire. However, even more could ultimately be released soon. As part of the deal, Israel agreed to continue the pause in fighting one more day for each additional 10 hostages released by Hamas.
The newly freed Palestinian minors’ names are Yousef Mohammad Mustafa Ata, Qusai Hani Ali Ahmad, Jibreel Ghassan Ismail Jibreel, Mohammad Ahmad Suleiman Abu Rajab, Ahmad Nu’man, Ahmad Abu Na’im, Baraa Bilal Mahmoud Rabee, Aban Iyad Mohammad Said Hammad, Moataz Hatem Moussa Abu Aram, Iyas Abdul Qader Mohammad Khatib, Hazma Laith Khalil Othman Othman, Mohammad Mahmoud Ayoub Dar Darwish, Jamal Khalil Jamal Barahmeh, Jamal Yousef Jamal Abu Hamdan, Mohammad Anis Saleem Tarabi, Abdul Rahman Abdul Rahman Suleiman Rizq, Zeina Raed Abdou and Noor Mohammad Hafez al-Tahir, according to Al Jazeera. The adults’ names are Rawan Nafez Mohammad Abu Matar, Marah Joudat Moussa Bakeer, Malak Mohammad Yousef Suleiman, Amani Khaled Nu’man Hasheem, Nihaya Khader Hussein Sawan, Fayrouz Fayez Mahmoud al-Baw, Tahreer Adnan Mohammad Abu Suriya, Falasteen Fareed Abdul Latif Najm, Walaa Khaled Fawzi Tanja, Maryam Khaled Abdul Majid Arafat, Asil Muneer Ibrahim al-Tayti, Azhar Thaer Bakr Assaf, Raghd Nashat Salah al-Fanni, Fatima Nu’man Ali Badr, Rawda Moussa Abdul Qader Abu Ujaima, Sara Ayman Abdul Aziz Abdullah al-Suweisa, Fatima Ismail Abdul Rahman Shahin, Samira Abdul Harbawi, Samah Bilal Abdul Rahman Souf, Fatima Bakr Moussa Abu Shalal, Hanan Saleh Abdullah al-Barghouthi and Fatima Nasr Mohammad Amarnah, according to Al Jazeera.