Israel releases Palestinian prisoner Karim Younis after 40 years in jail

The 66-year-old was one of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners held in Israel

A banner with an image of Karim Younis in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. AP
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Israel released one of its longest-serving Palestinian prisoners on Thursday, after 40 years in jail.

Karim Younis, 66, was freed and left in the city of Ra’anana, about 20km north of Tel Aviv, by Israeli authorities, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

His family had not been notified of his release, it said.

In 1983 Younis was convicted by Israel of the murder of Israeli soldier Cpl Avraham Bromberg three years previously in the occupied Golan Heights and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to 40 years in prison.

“It was 40 years full of stories, prisoners’ stories and each story is a story of a nation,” Younis said after his release. “I am very proud to be one of those who made sacrifices for Palestine and we were ready to sacrifice more for the sake of the cause of Palestine.”

Younis was expected to be released in 2013 as part of a deal negotiated by John Kerry, who was US secretary of stat at the time.

The agreement was to have freed several batches of prisoners held in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995.

But Israel refused to release him, saying that because Younis had Israeli citizenship, it was an internal issue.

He was the longest-serving Palestinian citizen of Israel in prison and served the longest continuous sentence of any Palestinian.

Nael Barghouti, from the occupied West Bank and who does not have Israeli citizenship, is still in prison after 42 years. He was imprisoned from 1978 to 2011, before being re-arrested and his sentence reinstated in 2014.

Karim Younis's cousin, Maher Younis, who was also convicted of Bromberg's murder, is also expected to be released.

Israeli forces raided his family home in the northern town of Ar'ara on Wednesday, Wafa reported.

Troops confiscated Palestinian flags and banners promoting the Fatah party, which is dominant in the occupied West Bank.

After his release, Karim Younis visited his aunt, Maher's mother, before going to the graves of his parents, who died while he was in prison, the agency reported.

He was greeted by family, friends and supporters chanting and carrying him through the streets on their shoulders and draped in a keffiyeh.

His release comes days after Israel swore in the most right-wing government in its history.

Several ministers have pledged tougher action on Palestinian prisoners, including those who hold Israeli citizenship.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Tuesday called for Karim Younis to be stripped of his Israeli citizenship, in a letter to the country's attorney general saying such a move “has legal validity in circumstances when people use their Israeli citizenship to harm” Israel and its citizens.

Bromberg's nephew also called for Younis to be stripped of his citizenship.

"An Israeli citizen can’t hold an Israeli ID card with one hand and murder a soldier with another and it can’t be that the murderer will be freed from jail and walk around like anyone among our nation," he told the Israeli Walla news.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded the death penalty for Palestinians found guilty of attacking Israelis as a condition for joining the coalition government.

He has ordered authorities to suppress celebrations outside the prison were Younis was held, as well as in his hometown. It follows proposals to outlaw celebrations for released Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism.

Updated: January 05, 2023, 12:33 PM