Deported Palestinian prisoners face new life of exile
Dozens of Palestinians released by Israel as part of a prisoner exchange but deemed too dangerous to be allowed to return to Gaza or the West Bank are expressing anger as they begin their exile in other Middle East countries.
While most of the 477 prisoners released Tuesday in the swap for soldier Gilad Shalit walked into the open arms and tearful welcome of their family members, 42 other freed prisoners were taken to other countries by plane or by bus.
Ten of the released prisoners were sent to Turkey, 15 to Qatar, one to Jordan, while another 16, including Amana Mona, were taken to Syria.
"It is a happy day, but not completely because we are away from our home," Mona said in Arabic.
Mona, whom the Israeli media dubbed the "terrorist temptress" for her role in the 2001 murder of 16-year-old Ophir Rachum, posed as a tourist on the internet and lured him into a romantic meeting in the West Bank, where the Israeli teenager was murdered by two Palestinian militants.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Mona, who became the hardline leader of female prisoners in Israeli custody and was barred by Israel from returning to her West Bank home, joined another female prisoner in refusing to be transferred to Gaza on Tuesday, causing a two-hour delay in the exchange before the two women finally relented to the swap. Mona was later taken to Syria from Egypt.
Mohammed Wael, who was sentenced to more than 1,600 years for his involvement in suicide attacks against Israelis, told Al-Jazeera he could accept exile, but also vowed he would not stop trying to free prisoners in Israeli jails.
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"Not returning home leaves a scar, but we consider all Arab countries as our second home," Wael was quoted as saying. "As long as there are prisoners in Israel, the mujahedeen will always try to free them."
Nimer Darwaze, who was also released into exile Tuesday, vowed to keep fighting Israel — although he refused to say how.
"The resistance is increasing and it will continue until there is victory," he said.
Israelis fear more captures
Hamas has hailed the swap as a victory over Israel and has issued a call to capture more Israeli soldiers in order to free the nearly 5,000 prisoners still in Israeli jails.
"Yes, we are happy," exiled Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal said Tuesday. "But our happiness is not complete until they release the remaining prisoners."
In Israel, where military service is compulsory for most 18-year-olds, the prospect of more soldiers being captured is a clear worry.
The Israeli government insisted during negotiations that the most notorious prisoners would not be allowed to return to Gaza or the West Bank out of concerns they would again attack Israelis or try to capture more soldiers for use in future exchanges.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also issued a thinly veiled warning to the released prisoners, saying Tuesday that anyone who returned to violence was "taking his life into his hands."
Shalit visited by medical officials
The 24-year-old soldier reportedly has lingering effects from shrapnel wounds he received during the 2006 raid that ended in his capture and the deaths of two of his comrades.
Wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap, Shalit was seen taking a walk Wednesday with his mother outside his home in northern Israel.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Gilad's father Noam Shalit told reporters on Wednesday morning his son is doing well and "slept well overnight."