Hair, makeup and hopefully a sister back home: Palestinians await prisoner release | Israel-Hamas war #Hair #makeup #sister #home #Palestinians #await #prisoner #release #IsraelHamas #war

The daughters of the Awad family were busy dressing up at their home in Qalandiya, on the West Bank side of the notorious checkpoint, on Saturday evening. Hair was curled and eyeliner applied; all four chose outfits in black and white to match their Palestinian keffiyeh scarves. The celebration was to mark the unexpected release of their big sister, Noorhan, 24, from prison in Israel. She was jailed eight years ago; the youngest, 10-year-old Mayar, does not remember her.

Their community centre was decked out with Palestinian flags and posters of Noorhan and two other young people from the neighbourhood. “So much has changed since Noorhan was home last,” said her mother Sumaya. “We are so excited. I don’t want to hope too much.”

Noorhan is one of 42 women and children who were expected to be released from Israeli prisons on Saturday evening, the second day of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

On Friday, the world was moved by the scene of nine-year-old Ohad Munder running into his father’s arms, one of 13 Israeli children and women released as part of the deal seven weeks after being seized from their homes as hostages during Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October. At the Betunia checkpoint in Ramallah, next to the notorious Ofer prison, Palestinian families repeated similar scenes a few hours later: mothers cried as they embraced their daughters, home sooner than anyone could have expected.

A total of 39 Palestinians, from a list of 300 potential candidates, were released on Friday night. On Saturday, afternoon, nine Israeli children were due to be released to the custody of the Committee of the International Red Cross (ICRC) before being flown in helicopters from Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt to the surviving members of their families – but anxious people in both Israel and the Palestinian territories were still waiting until late into the night, as the deal appeared to falter.

At 6.30pm (4.30pm GMT), Hamas said on its Telegram channel that it was delaying the release of the second batch of Israeli hostages because aid trucks were not being allowed by Israeli forces to enter the northern half of the Gaza Strip, now battered by 50 days of an unprecedented war. Hamas also alleged that Israel was not adhering to agreed criteria to release Palestinian prisoners in order of what they called “seniority”.

Outside Ofer prison in Ramallah, Israeli forces used tear gas to disperse the crowds waiting for buses carrying the freed prisoners to arrive; at least one man and a 17-year-old boy were injured by live fire, in a sign of how quickly the truce could be derailed.

In Qalandiya, many people worried the delay could mean the fighting in Gaza will start up again and the deal will collapses, dashing their hopes of seeing loved ones again.

Nearly 15,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes. About 1,200 Israelis were killed on 7 October. The death tolls are already the worst in the 75-year-old conflict.

The deal stipulates that, after the initial four-day ceasefire, for every 10 hostages that come home from Gaza, fighting will be paused for an additional day, up to a total of 10 days. It could see 50 Israelis released in return for three times as many Palestinians.

For Palestinians, the mood was jubilant, at least before Saturday’s long wait. “This is a victory for all Palestinian people, even though every family suffers under Israeli occupation,” said Rasmi Dagadeen, 25, from Hebron who was waiting for the possible release of his cousin, Younis Hawameh, 17. He did not say what Hawameh was imprisoned for.

“It is wrong to imprison minors. They arrested him for nothing, took him from his work,” Dagadeen said.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society says that 7,200 prisoners are being held in Israel, among them 88 women and 250 under-18s. The plight of prisoners is a core issue for Palestinians: around a million of the 5 million population have spent time in Israeli jails, according to a recent UN report.Israel is the only developed country that regularly tries minors – Palestinian, not Israeli – in military courts.

NGO Defence for Children International said: “Each year, 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system.”

Israel refused to release anyone sentenced for murder. Most prisoners are held for stone-throwing, damaging property or contact with “hostile” organisations. Many are in administrative detention, which allows for pre-emptive arrest on secret evidence and six-month extendable stints in prison without charge or trial.

Noorhan Awad was 16 when she was arrested in 2015 for using scissors to stab an Israeli outside the Old City in Jerusalem; the man was moderately wounded. She initially denied the charges but, like many Palestinians advised by lawyers, later pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison, later reduced to 10.

“We are not a political family. I don’t think that Noorhan did it, but she is a strong-willed girl,” Sumaya said. “She got a law degree in prison. I hope her future will be brighter.”

After chaotic scenes on Friday night, only one person was allowed to pick up each released detainee. Sumaya’s uncle had been waiting outside the Betunia checkpoint since 1pm; by 8pm, he was still there, even as men and women began to fill up the separate party rooms at the community centre in Qalandia. Little boys carrying toy pistols and rifles ran around on the street outside.

Yasmeen Awad, 39, a member of the extended family, said: “We can be here until the morning. One night is nothing after eight years.”

#Hair #makeup #sister #home #Palestinians #await #prisoner #release #IsraelHamas #war

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