Image Credit: Sky News

Palestinians rejoice at release of prisoners, Israel continues crackdown on West Bank

Palestinians across the occupied West Bank have rejoiced over the past few days as the Israeli occupation has released various detained women and children, as part of a temporary truce agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The truce agreement stated that 150 detained Palestinians would be released in exchange for 50 captives taken by Hamas on October 7 during Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

Tearful family members rejoiced at the sight of their loved ones, many of which emerged shocked, exhausted, and injured. Many of those released were draped in the Palestinian flag, while others proudly carried the green flag of Hamas, thanking the armed resistance movement for freeing them.

The Israeli occupation responded to the celebrations by ordering police to shut them down. Occupation forces fired tear gas canisters into the crowd, sending the crowd in various directions, with many screaming from the pain.

“It’s like a miracle from God”

The release of Palestinian prisoners was largely hailed as a victory for Palestinians everywhere, as nearly every Palestinian has a relative in jail or has been detained themselves. Human rights groups have estimated that over 750,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli prisons since 1967.

“These kinds of prisoner exchanges are often the only hope families have to see their sons or fathers released before many years go by,” said Amira Khader, an international advocacy officer at Addameer (a group supoorting Palestinian prisoners), according to a piece published by AP.

“It’s what they live for, it’s like a miracle from God.”

Israel tortures detainees in prison

Some of the teens freed on Sunday said that they were subjected to torture while in captivity, and that several fellow detainees were beaten to death or denied medical treatment after beatings.

Khalil Mohamed Badr al-Zamaira, 18, was just 16 years old when he was detained by occupation forces. He said that Palestinian prionsers are being mistreated and beaten in prison, with no special treatment given for the detained children.

“They didn’t differentiate between old and young,” he told Middle East Eye. “Two teens were transferred from Ofer prison with broken ribs. They were unable to move.”

Another teen, Omar al-Atshan, also told the media outlet that he was mistreated and tortured in the Naqab prison. Al-Atshan said that prisoners are routinely beaten and humiliated, and are rarely given water or food.

“Our happiness is not complete because there are other captives still in detention,” he added. One captive, identified as Thaer Abu Assab, was beaten to death while in custody.

“He was tortured because of a question; he asked the warden whether there was a truce. Then he got beaten to death,” said al-Atshan. Abu Assab was subjected to heavy beating, with doctors arriving an hour and a half later – by then, Abu Assab had already succumbed to his injuries.

In the days after the launch of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Israel increased its crackdown in the occupied West Bank, often storming homes in the middle of the night under the pretense of arresting Palestinians for “terrorist activity.” This has often included sharing social media posts that question Israel’s war on Gaza or accuse the occupation of war crimes. 

Under this definition, prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi was kidnapped by occupation forces in the middle of the night, along with various others. 

At the moment, there are around 7,200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons – 116 of which were “arrested” since the start of the four-day truce. Over 2,000 have been arrested since October 7.