Israel releases longest-serving Palestinian prisoner

Arab Israeli Karim Younes is carried by friends and relatives following his release after 40 years in an Israeli prison for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier, on January 5, 2023, in the norther Israeli town of Arara. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, Karim Younis, was released from Israeli prison on Thursday morning after serving 40 years for the killing of an Israeli soldier in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Younis, a 66-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel from the village of Ara, was arrested in 1983 and originally sentenced to life in prison, but his sentence was later commuted to 40 years. Upon his release, Younis was greeted by large crowds of family and friends in his hometown and visited the grave of his mother, who died eight months ago.

[Translation: Freed prisoner Karim Younis hugs the grave of his mother who died eight months before his date of release]

According to Al Jazeera, Younis described his release as a “military operation” and said that he had been moved between different police cars before being dropped off at a bus station in Ranana, a town north of Tel Aviv. It was there that he was able to contact his family with the help of a passer-by. Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reported that Younis was released at 5:30am and that people had poured into the streets of his village to welcome him. Khan also noted that Israeli military intelligence had visited Younis’ family prior to his release and told them not to mark the occasion, but the family and villagers in Ara reportedly disregarded those instructions.

Longest serving Palestinian prisoner, Karim Younis, is welcomed at his village, after he was freed from Israeli jail earlier today
Karin Younis welcomed at his village after his release

Younis is a significant figure in the Palestinian struggle and was seen as a rising star in Palestinian politics at the time of his arrest. There are currently around 4,700 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons, including 150 children and 835 people who are being held without trial or charge. The vast majority of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody come from the occupied West Bank, but Younis is a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

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