Israel warns Palestinians not to celebrate release of prisoner after 40 years in jail
Palestinian prisoner Maher Younes was freed on Thursday after spending 40 years in Israeli jails with police ordering his family and supporters not to celebrate his release or raise the Palestinian flag.
Relatives and friends gathered in the town of Ara, near Haifa, to welcome home the 65-year-old, including Karim Younes, Maher's cousin, who was released just two weeks earlier.
The two men were convicted and sentenced to life for killing Avraham Bromberg, an Israeli soldier, in 1980.
Earlier on Thursday, Israeli police took positions around the northern Israeli town to prevent any celebrations by local Palestinians, with the Younes family ordered not to erect a visitors' tent to welcome him home.
After his release, Maher made a brief stop at the town's cemetery to pay respects to his late father, who passed away in 2008 while he was still in prison. He was then driven to his family home to meet his mother, who dressed him in a white abaya.
Maher, like his cousin Karim, is a member of the Fatah, although the party of the 1980s is a very different to its current incarnation.
Maher Younes and Karim Younes meet for the first time without bars, without isolation cells, without walls.#FreePalestine pic.twitter.com/1a0cQCdQSG— The Inside- Palestine (@TInsidePal) January 19, 2023
Speaking to reporters, he alluded to the rivalry among political factions and urged Palestinians to unite.
"Enough with your differences, the people need leadership," he said.
Before his release, Maher addressed fellow Palestinians in a widely ciculated letter.
"I long to meet the great people who chant for Palestine... I yearn to meet the new generation who is aware of our cause and future," he wrote.
The release of Maher and Karim, after decades in jail, brought hope to many Palestinians who have loved ones behind bars.
"It's a great victory," Amjad Abu Asab, spokesman for the relatives of the Palestinian prisoners, told The New Arab.
"Despite the attempts by the occupation to humiliate prisoners, today we saw this fighter [Maher] return home, his head held up high."
Israel Interior Minister Arye Deri, who the supreme court ruled unfit for public service, had vowed to strip Karim Younes of his Israeli citizenship.
Israel still holds 4,700 Palestinian prisoners captive.
Press coverage: “This is how the mother of the liberated prisoner, Maher Younes, welcomed her son, who spent 40 years behind the bars of Israeli occupation prisons”. pic.twitter.com/JiYTvfINOV— AlQastal News (@QastalNewsEn) January 19, 2023