BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities on Friday released a Palestinian prisoner from the Gaza Strip who spent eight years in Israeli jails, family told Ma’an.
A large group of Palestinians welcomed Ashraf Ali Awad, 32, as he entered the Gaza Strip through the Beit Hanoun gate in the northern Gaza Strip.
Awad had been forbidden by Israeli prison authorities from seeing his family for the last five and a half years.
Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also took part in welcoming Awad in his home in the al-Jenineh neighborhood of Rafah, near Gaza’s southern border.
Awad said that Palestinians still in Israeli prison called on Palestinians everywhere to work in every possible way for them to be freed.
His mother, Umm Muhammad, echoed his statements, saying: “Palestine is bigger than all of us and we should sacrifice for it.”
Awad was detained on Feb. 6, 2007 near the Sufa crossing. He was interrogated for several months in Ashkelon detention center, and was accused of assisting Palestinian factions by giving them information that would help locate Israeli patrols on the eastern border of Gaza.
Along with other Palestinian prisoners from Gaza, he was banned from receiving family visits for more than five and a half years, an Israeli policy that came after Hamas militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Visits were allowed again in the second half of 2012 after Palestinian prisoners carried out an open hunger strike for 28 days in a row.
There are some 7,000 Palestinian prisoners currently being held in Israeli jails.