The families of murdered Israelis are voicing anger at their government for agreeing to a Palestinian demand to release 26 convicted terrorists from prison Tuesday as a condition for ongoing peace talks in a deal secured by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
All prisoners set for release are convicted murderers, including some who kidnapped and then axed, tortured or burned their victims to death. All were supposed to be serving life sentences.
Here are some of those being released and a description of their crimes as reported by Israeli media:
- Damouni Saad Mohammed Ahmed was convicted more than two decades ago for his role in lynching Israel Defense Forces reserve soldier Amnon Pomerantz. The soldier had taken a wrong turn into a Gaza refugee camp where he was beaten to death and his car set on fire with him inside.
- Leah Elmakayis and Yossi Eliyahu were hiking in the Gilboa mountain range in 1985 when 17-year-old Yosef Mahmad Haza Haza and a friend murdered them. Israeli protesters are upset that Haza, now in his mid-40s, likely still has many years of freedom ahead of him.
- Abed al Raba Nimr Jabril Issa, the perpetrator of the 1984 killing of hikers Revital Seri and Ron Levy, is also set to be released.
- Personal acquaintance with the victims did not stop at least one of the convicted killers. Abu-Dahila Hasan Atik Sharif, a member of Fatah, stabbed to death Avi Osher, his employer of 15 years.
- Aid worker Ian Feinberg who was on a visit to Gaza in 1993 to discuss ways to help the Palestinian economy was hacked with an axe and then shot to death during a meeting. One of his killers, Amer Massoud Issa Rajib, is set to walk.
The killer of Varda Akiva’s son is also on the list of those to be freed.
“The government has betrayed us and we have no one to trust,” Akiva told the Jerusalem Post, adding she doesn’t believe achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians is possible.
Akiva joined an estimated 3,000 Israelis who held a demonstration outside the Ofer Prison near Ramallah Monday to protest the prisoner release.
According to the Times of Israel, protesters held placards with the photos of slain Israelis, while others shouted, “Jewish blood is not cheap.”
Tuesday’s release is part two of a four-stage prisoner release plan.
Families of the victims say Israel gets nothing in return from the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the so-called confidence building measure.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision one of the “toughest” he’s made as the nation’s leader. He described those being released as “villains” and said that while his heart is with the families, the “decision is a necessity, given the reality in which we live.”