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Celebrations Continue for Released Prisoners

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RAMALLAH, December 31, 2013 (WAFA) – Celebrations continued Tuesday in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza for the 26 prisoners Israel released earlier in the day as part of an agreement to release 104 prisoners held since before signing the Oslo agreement in 1993.

President Mahmoud Abbas received in Ramallah 18 of the 26 prisoners who were released to the West Bank.

Five were released in Jerusalem and three were sent to the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of people were waiting for them at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing.

The 26 prisoners received a hero’s welcome when they met by their friends and families.

In Ramallah, Abbas welcomed the release of the third group of prisoners and promised them that there will be other batches of prisoners to be released in the near future, including the sick prisoners.

The fourth and last batch of the pre-Oslo prisoners are expected to be released at the end of March and they include 14 prisoners from inside the “green line.” The first two were released in August and October.

“We promise you not to conclude a final agreement without all the prisoners released,” said Abbas, who criticized the Israelis for delaying the release of the third group by 24 hours.

Abbas congratulated the prisoners and their relatives for their freedom.

“We promise you that this will not be the last one and there will be other batches of the heroes in the near future,” he said, adding that “after the fourth group, there will be the sick batch.”

The president also denounced a decision by an Israeli committee to annex the Jordan Valley.

“We will not allow them to annex the Jordan Valley, but if they do we will decide how to act. It is Palestinian land. It is a red line that should not be crossed,” he said.

He also congratulated the Palestinian people for the New Year, the 49th anniversary of the Palestinian Revolution and for the Christmas.

“We hope that these occasions come next year and we have an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital where the Palestinian flag will fly over its minarets and churches,” he said.

After the late Monday night and early Tuesday morning celebrations at the Muqata, each of the families took their freed sons to their hometown in preparation for more festive celebrations in the coming days.

M.N./M.S.

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