Israel releases Hamas lawmaker

Published: May 20, 2010 22:32 Updated: May 20, 2010 22:32 

RAMALLAH: The Israeli Prison Service released on Thursday Hamas lawmaker 
Mohammed Abu Tir after serving a sentence of four years.

Abu Tir was among 65 top Hamas officials, including ministers of the Hamas 
government and Parliament members, that were detained by Israeli security 
forces shortly after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted in a 
cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip in 2006. Israeli military courts accused 
them of belonging to an illegal organization, association with a terror group, 
among other allegations.

The officials were bargaining chips Israel hoped to use as leverage in the 
efforts to secure the release of Shalit.

The orange-bearded Hamas lawmaker was imprisoned in Nafha Prison in southern 
Israel, from whence he was transferred to the Russian Compound in Jerusalem in 
preparation for his release.

Abu Tir was received by a crowd of revelers in a celebration tent at his East 
Jerusalem home.

In the first statement after his release, Abu Tir said: "I don't want Gilad 
Shalit to remain in captivity, just as I did not like captivity. The Israeli 
leadership has torpedoed the deal. The Israeli leadership must be realistic in 
dealing with this matter."

"All Israeli leaders are against the deal to release Gilad Shalit. They reached 
a deal a number of times, but never followed through. Just like I have a 
family, a father, mother and children, Gilad Shalit also has a mother and 
father who want him. If only there was a deal, but it's not in my hands; it is 
in the hands of the leaders."

Israel has so far released nine of the Hamas officials jailed after Shalit's 
abduction. Israeli defense officials said those ministers, including Aziz 
Dwaik, head of the Hamas Parliament, and former Prisoners Affairs Minister 
Wasfi Kabaha, had just completed their prison terms and their release was not 
connected to a prisoner swap deal for Shalit's release.

On Wednesday, Israeli Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari of rightist National Union 
party pleaded with Defense Minister Ehud Barak not to release Abu Tir. In a 
letter he sent Barak, Ben Ari said he had been "shocked" to hear of Abu Tir's 
impending release. Abu Tir's hands, he said, "are soaked with the blood of 

Meanwhile, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Hamas 
government released top officials from the rival movements after mediation from 
independent Palestinian figures.

Palestinian sources said that security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas 
released Mohammed Ghazal, a member of the Hamas politburo. 

Hamas said that Ghazal, a lecturer at the engineering faculty in Najah National 
University, was detained by Abbas' forces in 2008. The movement said that 
detention of Ghazal "was an attempt by Fatah-controlled PA in Ramallah to 
eliminate Hamas from the West Bank."

In the Gaza Strip, the security forces of the deposed Hamas government released 
a senior member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

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