Israel releases oldest Palestinian prisoner after 17-year sentence

Fuad Shubaki, 83, was freed after serving a term for arms smuggling

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The oldest Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail has been released after serving a 17-year sentence for arms smuggling, an advocacy group and his son said.

Fuad Shubaki, 83, was released from Ashkelon prison and is “on his way to Ramallah” in the occupied West Bank, a representative for the Palestinian Prisoners Club said on Monday. This was confirmed by Shubaki's son, Hazem.

As Shubaki arrived in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, to visit the tomb of his close ally the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Palestinian officials jostled to get close to him.

Children waved the flag of the Fatah movement, while women wore T-shirts with the face of a young Shubaki printed on them.

Among the crowd was Mahmoud Aloul, vice president of the Fatah movement, and Tawfiq Tirawi — two figures often described as possible successors to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

After praying at Arafat's tomb, Shubaki vowed to continue to follow the example of the late Palestinian leader.

“We will go on the path Yasser Arafat drew for us, we will carry on his resistance no matter what it costs. Our lives are worthless when it comes to our homeland, our people and those who were martyred along the way,” he said.

Shubaki, a senior member of the Fatah movement, was arrested by Palestinian security forces in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada.

He was accused of attempting to smuggle weapons from Iran to the coastal enclave of Gaza aboard the Karine A ship, which was seized by Israel in the Red Sea.

The Israeli military claimed the ship was carrying 50 tonnes of weapons, including short-range Katyusha rockets, anti-tank missiles and explosives from Iran and the Lebanon-based Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Shubaki was held by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank town of Jericho under US and British supervision.

In 2006, the prison was stormed by Israeli forces and Shubaki was taken to Israel, where he was tried in a military court.

He was sentenced to 20 years in jail, which was later reduced to 17 years.

Updated: March 14, 2023, 12:41 PM