Maher Younis, center, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who served a lengthy jail sentence for killing a soldier, walks with his mother after his release amid promises by the country s ultranationalist National Security Minister to limit any celebrations marking his freedom, in Ara, Israel, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. AP
After serving 40 years in Israeli prisons for resisting the occupation, freedom fighter Maher Younis, second longest-serving prisoner in the world, is free at last and back at his home this morning after his release from Beersheba prison in southern Israel, according to the Palestinian Prisoners club.
Younis was 22 when he was arrested in his hometown and sentenced on January 18, 1983, to life in prison later commuted to 40 years.
Hundreds gathered outside Younis' family home in the northern Israeli village of Arara as the 62-year-old returned home, with a young woman in tears as she placed a garland of flowers around Younis' neck.
The celebrations took place despite warnings from Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir that police would intervene if Palestinian flags or chants supporting Younis took place.
"Waving terror flags and chants that the terrorist is a hero... are illegal measures, so police are instructed to prevent them and if they happen, immediately disperse them," Ben-Gvir said earlier on Thursday.
"The authorities are trying to spoil the celebration," Younis told reporters. "The Palestinian flag is in our hearts and the homeland is in our minds. It is just an issue of appearances."
"After 40 years of captivity, his health is good and his nerves are solid," his brother Nader Younis said.
His cousin, Karim Younis, was also released two weeks earlier also after serving 40 years in prison, making the two Younis members the longest-serving freedom fighters in the world.
When Karim was released, he said he was "proud" of his actions, and was welcomed by hundreds of celebrating supporters waving Palestinian flags.
The scenes sparked a backlash in Israel, and several high-ranking Palestinian officials from Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party had their Israeli entry permits revoked after attending the celebrations, sparking a diplomatic crisis.
Ben-Gvir's office said the minister had "instructed police to act firmly and with determination against the phenomena of terror and support for terror we saw the other week" during Karim's homecoming.