Palestinians Demonstrate In Gaza To Demand Prisoner Release

Monday, April 16th 2007, 7:16 am
By: News On 6

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Holding photographs of relatives held in Israeli jails, several thousand people demonstrated outside the Red Cross office in Gaza City on Monday to call for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Monday's demonstration came on the eve of Prisoners Day, held annually in identification with Palestinians jailed in Israel, many of them for security offenses ranging from stone-throwing to plotting suicide bombings.

Negotiations are ongoing for a prisoner swap in return for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas-linked militants last June. Shalit's captors have demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinians, including men convicted for the murders of Israelis.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas assured the crowd that the list of prisoners Hamas is demanding in return for Shalit includes ``all our people from all the factions.''

Haniyeh said the list includes the best-known Palestinian prisoner _ Marwan Barghouti, a popular militant leader from the rival Fatah group. Israel has said it will not free Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life terms for his role in shooting attacks that killed four Israelis and a Greek monk.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed disappointment over names on the list, but has not ruled out a deal.

In a statement Monday, Hamas said, ``We believe that kidnapping soldiers and exchanging them for prisoners is the best solution for releasing our heroes, after the failure of all the diplomatic channels.''

Some 9,250 Palestinians are in Israeli jails, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

``I am optimistic that the day of freedom is coming,'' said Nedal Sarifiti, 52, who said his son Ali was serving a 25-year sentence in Israel on charges of being a Fatah militant.