‘God willing, after Shalit there will be more Shalits, so that we can release the rest of the prisoners.”
Palestinian joy erupted quickly in this isolated enclave at the first word of the Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap agreement announced late Tuesday. And through the hours of Wednesday as the agreement’s details became clearer, the celebrations spread and Hamas, the governing authority here that rejects Israel’s legitimacy, claimed much of the credit.
Under the terms, Israeli authorities will exchange 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli soldier, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, who has been a captive in Gaza for more than five years. Although thousands more Palestinians are still incarcerated in Israel, all 27 of the women inmates there will be among those released.
“This is a victory for the steadfastness of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas,” said Yousef al-Daloo, 24, a taxi driver taking part in one of the street processions tinged with the green of Hamas flags. “The martyrs of Palestine were patient, and our prisoners were patient.”
As music blared from loudspeakers mounted on the back of trucks, he said he looked forward to more such exchanges: “God willing, we wish all the prisoners will be freed and that this will be the first deal. God willing, after Shalit there will be more Shalits, so that we can release the rest of the prisoners.”
By Wednesday all the Palestinian factions had joined Hamas on the streets of Gaza City, hailing the imminent release. Cars bearing the banners of Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other groups were a frequent sight around the city center, organizing rallies and mobilizing their supporters.
At the same time, many ordinary Gazans, while saying they were delighted to get the prisoners freed, were wary or guardedly optimistic about what practical difference a prisoner exchange would mean for their daily lives…