Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was among hundreds who turned out in the West Bank to welcome 11 of the 26 prisoners released by Israel ahead of the resumption of peace talks in Jerusalem later today.
Most of the freed men had been serving long jail terms after being convicted of deadly attacks on Israelis.
It was the same in Gaza where 15 more released inmates were met by joyful families and friends. All 26 were greeted as heroes.
Alaa Shaath, who was waiting for the return of his father, said: “I have been waiting for this moment for 21 years. I feel like it’s been a million. I’m a child who lost his father, lost everything. Today I will get everything back. I’m 28 years old but I feel like I’m seven again as I was when he left.”
While there were celebrations in the Palestinian territories, there was anger among families of the victims back in Israel.
Outside Ayalon prison near Tel Aviv, a small group of Israeli activists gathered to protest as the buses drove the men away.
Israel has agreed to release 78 more prisoners over the next nine months as part of a deal to revive the peace process after a three year stand-off.
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