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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Bittersweet joy for released Palestinians
Father hugs released son
Families were reunited after months or years apart
Israel's release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners led to emotional scenes as families and friends were reunited after months or years.

But for many Palestinians the joy was tinged with bitterness - many have been held without charge or trial and thousands more are still behind bars.

Hamas member Ahmed Mukhtar said he had been in prison 11 years since the first Intifada.

"One is not very happy because we left thousands of prisoners behind."

Anwar Zbun, a Hamas political leader from Bethlehem, also had mixed feelings as he crossed at the Tarkumiya checkpoint.

"I'm very happy to be free," he said, speaking at his home in Bethlehem and holding his daughter Aya, "but I want all my brother prisoners to be free as well."

"I'm delighted to see my daughter, who I didn't see for the last six months."

"I'm very happy to see my son, " said his mother, Samicha Zbun, "but everyone should be free, everyone should be free."

Five-month wait

But for mothers reunited with their sons, the occasion was emotional.

Taghrid Abdelaziz, 52, broke into tears as she hugged her newly-liberated son Ahmed.

"I am so happy, I thank God," she said.

This is basically a public relations stunt by the Israelis
Michael Terrazi, legal adviser
Her 25-year-old son was held in administrative detention for one year and released two weeks before he was due to be set free.

Another prisoner being released was Adnam Jabir, from Bethlehem, who has spent the past five months in administrative detention.

His daughter Sharook told the BBC she was pleased he was finally going home.

"I'm very happy. I can't believe this, you know. Maybe it's only five months, but it's so, so long."

But she said she did not believe the Israelis were serious about peace.

"They just do something to let the world say that they are doing something good for the Palestinians, but they are not."

Peace hopes

Legal adviser Michael Terrazi explained why the Palestinian Authority, particularly Yasser Arafat, have denounced the releases as a deceit.

"This is basically a public relations stunt by the Israelis," he said.

Prisoner says goodbye
Some of the released are angry colleagues have been left behind
"There are more than 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom are held without even charge or a fair trial.

"To release less than 10% of those in a huge public fanfare and a media event is in effect telling the Palestinians that they're not really serious about really addressing Palestinian concerns, but only to address public opinion."

But Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian legislator and negotiator, looked beyond the symbolism.

"The main point of peace is reconciliation, is rebuilding a process," he said.

"We have not been just witnessing the Israelis dying: Palestinians have been dying three times as much as the Israelis, which is unfortunate.

"We don't want Israelis to be killed, we don't want Palestinians to be killed. We want to give the peace process a chance."




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