Muhammed Yousuf, an elderly 70-year-old farmer, lives near the town of Dura in the al-Khalil region. Yousuf has kept his eyes glued to al-Jazeera Television channel to know the latest regarding efforts to conclude a prisoner-exchange accord between the Islamic liberation movement, Hamas and the Israeli apartheid regime.
His thoughts and prayers and also those of his wife are with their son, Ahmed, who is spending a life imprisonment for killing an Israeli soldier near Hebron in the early 1990s.
Ahmed is reportedly on the list of prisoners Hamas is demanding their release.
“I just want to see him before I die,” says the ailing farmer. “This is my dearest wish.” His wife, Um Yasser, has the same wish. “My son has every right to be free. He fought like a soldier, he attacked Israeli soldiers who were killing Palestinian civilians. A soldier must never be treated as if he were a terrorist or a criminal.”
Israel and Hamas had conducted extensive though indirect negotiations aimed at exchanging an Israeli soldier captured near Gaza by Hamas fighters more than three years ago for as many as 1450 Palestinian prisoners, including children and women as well as political activists and resistance fighters languishing in Israeli prisons.
However, the Yousufs, like thousands of other Palestinian families in occupied Palestine, are praying to God that this time will be different.
“They played with our nerves too much. It is time they reach an agreement,” said Abu Yasser, with a sigh. “I want to see my son.”
He, too, rejects the epithet Israel routinely uses to describe Palestinian freedom fighters. “Would you become a terrorist if you resisted foreign invaders and foreign occupiers of your country,” he asked.
“Israel stole our country, destroyed our homes, murdered our children, and expelled half of our people to the four corners of the world. So what are we supposed to do? Hurl roses and wreaths of flower on Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers? The world that calls us terrorists for resisting the murderers of our children is a shameless world without any modicum of morality.
“Even in America, they say ‘give me freedom or give me death.’”
Looming but not imminent
Hamas’s officials on Wednesday admitted that a prisoner-swap deal was closer than ever before.
However, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza has warned that Israel is trying to wrest concessions from Hamas.
“They are insisting that a given number of resistance fighters must remain in jail. But we can’t agree to this. These people have already spent the prime of their lives in Zionist dungeons and concentration camps. It is time they see the light of the day,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a prominent Hamas spokesperson.
Earlier, it was reported that Prime Minister Ismael Haniya canceled plans to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Makka. This bolstered hopes that an exchange of prisoners was in the offing and might be imminent.
On Tuesday, a number of Hamas delegates, including Hamas’s top leader Mahmoud al Zahhar, traveled to Damascus to meet with the Islamic liberation group’s overall leader, Khaled Mashaal.
The delegates are due to return to Cairo Thursday in order to brief the German mediator Emst Urlau on their meeting with Mashaal.
Observers contend that the prospective deal would be carried out immediately depending on Masha’al’s response to the latest proposals presented by the German and Egyptian mediators.
Meanwhile, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) has been waging a propaganda war against Hamas, apparently in order to mar the positive atmosphere surrounding the looming release of hundreds of Palestinian freedom fighters and political activists imprisoned in Israel.
Fatah is worried that a successful prisoner exchange deal would bolster Hamas’s standing among Palestinians. Hence, Fatah officials, including PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, have been disseminating disinformation about the prospective deal.
Hamas dismissed the PA’s “mendacious propaganda” calling PA officials and spokesmen “hypocrites and liars who lie as often as they breathe.”
“These people are vehemently opposed to see our beloved sons and daughters released from Zionist jails. They seem to hate Hamas more than they love their own children.
“They are sick,” said one Hamas spokesman from the Gaza Strip, who asked that his name not be mentioned.