A week late, Israel has gone ahead with the release of more than 200 Palestinian prisoners. The Israelis say the delay was at the Palestinians’ request, due to President Mahmoud Abbas attending the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.
While a small group was taken straight to Gaza, the majority went to Ramallah on the West Bank where they were greeted by families and supporters. Each former prisoner was embraced by Abbas, as his Fatah faction put on a show of strength. Israel says most of those released were affiliated to Fatah, and none belonged to Hamas, its bitter rival in Gaza. One notable prisoner was absent but pictures of Marwan Barghouti, a man many believe could unite Palestinians and take them into the next stage of the peace process, were highly visible. There are still no signs he will be released soon. After Abbas the ceremonies moved on to Yasser Arafat’s tomb where the father of the nation that- is-yet-to-be is buried.