Over 200,000 welcome prisoners in Gaza, Hamas officials say

AFP , Tuesday 18 Oct 2011

Mass rally held in Gaza City to celebrate the return of prisoners freed under swap deal with Israel, while thousands more rally in Ramallah where President Abbas appears before the crowds

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A released Palestinian prisoner embraces her daughters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday (Photo: AP)

"More than 200,000 people have gathered now at the Katiba (in Gaza City) to participate in the main festival welcoming the prisoners," one of the Hamas officials involved in organizing the welcome rally said.

Ismail Haniya, Gaza's Hamas prime minister was expected to address the rally as well as Yehia Sinwar, a senior leader with Hamas's armed wing who was among those released on Tuesday.

In Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, thousands of excited family members gathered to welcome the 296 newly-released prisoners home, many of whom could be seen wearing green Hamas sashes and wiping tears from their eyes.

Similar scenes of jubilation were occurring across the West Bank, with many thousands of people packing into the city of Ramallah to welcome 117 detainees home, cheering and waving flags as they got off four buses outside the Muqataa presidential compound.

President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the crowds, saying “you will see the results of your sacrafice and struggle reflected in the upcoming Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.” He further added, that “Soon, we will see Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat, whom we wish a full recovery.”

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