Ma'an News Agency
December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Rumors of a prisoner release are notoriously hard on families of the detained. As the back-and-forth between Israel and Gaza factions continues at a heated pace, Ma’an spoke with the wives and children of some of Palestine’s most prominent detainees.

Abla Sa’adat is the wife of one of the nine prisoners identified by Israeli media earlier in the week as one of the nine high-profile prisoners whose release the swap deal depends on.

Ahmad Sa’adat is the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He was abducted by Israeli forces from a Palestinian Authority prison in 2006, three months prior to the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Gazan militants. Sa’adat was wanted by Israel for his alleged role in planning the killing of their minister of tourism in 2001. Sa’adat succeeded Abu Ali Mustafa as leader of the PFLP in 2001 following his assassination by Israeli forces.

According to news reports, Sa’adat was one of the 100 top Palestinian leaders Israel wanted deported outside of the West Bank.

“My husband’s position is that he wants to stay in the country,” Abla told Ma’an, “but under the worst circumstance he would accept deportation to Gaza.” She also noted that as the representative of the PFLP, the party would be able to best determine the most beneficial solution.

While Abla said her husband had not openly discussed the issue of deportation with the party. “He was arrested from his home and he should come back to his home,” she added, “Shalit will return to his home and his country, so it is the right of Palestinian prisoners to do the same.”

Abla has not been contacted by negotiators, and says she depends on the media to know what will happen to her husband. “The negotiations are conducted in secret; even Ahmad does not know what is going on,” she said, noting she has not been able to see her husband since March, when he was transferred into solitary confinement in Israel’s Ramon Prison. All information is passed through the lawyers.

“I trust Hamas and the other parties holding Shalit,” she said, saying that their staunch position demanding the release of her husband is comforting.

“My message is of pride and confidence to the Palestinian negotiators. I hope, I demand that they stick to their positions to release as many prisoners as they can because it’s the last opportunity for them, the men serving long-term sentences, the old, women, children and prisoners of Jerusalem and the lands of 1948.”

She also sent a message to Israel saying, “As Shalit is important and dear to his family and his people, our detainees are also precious to our hearts and their human right is to get out to see their children who were denied the privilege of saying the word ‘father’. It is our right to live in our country freely.”

Relief after years

Umm Ahmad, 48, is the wife of Nafeth Herrez, Gaza’s longest serving prisoner in Israel. Herrez, 54, was detained in 1985. His youngest daughter, Suha, now married with three children, had not yet been born when Israeli soldiers took him from his home, in front of his wife and five young children.

Herrez had just joined Fatah and was detained on charges of plotting a bomb attack.

“The deal is our main concern,” Umm Ahmad said. Never far from a television with the latest news report airing, Umm Ahmad says she has been praying t God that her husband will be released in the swap deal.

“My sons, daughters and grandsons are all anxious and tense following up all of the news bulletins,” she said.

Umm Ahmad said de facto government officials gave her hope that Herrez would be released when she asked them if he was among the priority detainees.

A list of 450 Palestinians, including lawmakers, the elderly, women, children and long-term prisoners was passed to Israeli negotiators, the rest of the 550 prisoners demanded in the release are up to the discretion of Israel.

“Even if he is deported if would be better than jail,” she said, adding that both Yasser Arafat and Ahmad Yasin were deported from their homelands before they returned.

Four life terms and 40 years

Umm Jalal is the wife of Al-Qassam Brigades member Ruhi Mushtaha, sentenced to four life sentences plus forty years in 1988 when he was detained by Israeli forces, only six months after getting married. He has spent 22-years in Israeli prison, on charges that he helped establish one of the Hamas security departments, Majid. He is now 50-years old.

“We pay little attention to the media reports,” Um Jalal said, “we are hopeful that he will be released, since it is our only hope of seeing him.”

She is not optimistic that a deal will be completed soon, but said she thought the chance of her husband being released in a deal were good, since they live in Gaza where Israeli officials have asked to deport tens of the West Bank prisoners. She also says a deal without the release of long-term prisoners should be rejected. “Israel should pay a high price for the return of their soldier,” she said.

Women and Children

It is not clear how many on the list of 450 are also on the list of 850 names of Gaza residents currently in Israeli prison. Of those 850 there is one woman, Wafa Al-Biss and one teenager, Mamdouh At-Tannani, who turned 18 while in prison.


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