We are humans as well, says released Palestinian detainee Israa Al Jaabis

Al Jaabis, who spent eight years in Israeli prison, was among second group of Palestinians released during four-day truce

Released Palestinian Israa Al Jaabis savours freedom after eight years in Israeli jail

Released Palestinian Israa Al Jaabis savours freedom after eight years in Israeli jail
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Israa Al Jaabis sits in a chair in the shade of a large tree in the courtyard of her parents’ hillside home in the Jabal Al Mukaber neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.

A smile spreads across her scarred face as she greets a friend, one of dozens who have visited since she was released from an Israeli jail late Saturday night.

Arguably one of the most prominent Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, Ms Al Jaabi's release was welcomed by many in her community.

Israeli police, however, prevented any celebration of her release with officers dispersing a crowd that had gathered outside her parents' home in anticipation of her return.

“I’m saddened that my family had to experience that,” Ms Al Jaabis told The National.

She was part of the second batch of Palestinian prisoners released by Israel as part of a deal with Hamas, that will see the militant group free 50 hostages it kidnapped on October 7 in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinians held in Israeli jails and a four-day pause in fighting.

Emotional reunions as more Israeli hostages and Palestinian detainees released

Emotional reunions as more Israeli hostages and Palestinian detainees released

Ms Al Jaabis only heard about the exchange a few days ago, she said. She was hoping she would be among the first group released.

“I felt like the prison administration didn’t want me to get out,” she said.

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has instructed police to shut down any celebrations for Palestinians released from Jail.

“My instructions are clear: there are to be no expressions of joy,” Mr Gvir said before the prisoners' release.

Ms Al Jaabis said Palestinians also have a right to celebrate.

“You want to meet your kids who were held hostage when they get to Tel Aviv, you want to hug them and have parties for them, OK do it,” Ms Al Jaabis said. “But as you are human, we are humans as well.”

In 2015 Ms Al Jaabis was arrested after a gas canister detonated inside her car injuring an Israeli police officer and leaving her with third degree burns across 65 per cent of her body, including on her face and hands.

They used to treat me poorly and in an inhumane way
Israa Al Jaabis, released Palestinian prisoner

She was sentenced to 11 years in jail for an attempted suicide bombing, a charge she denies.

During the course of her imprisonment, Ms Al Jaabis accused Israel of denying her proper medical treatment and became a powerful symbol for the plight of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

“They rejected my treatment,” she said. “They used to treat me poorly and in an inhumane way.”

While the 39 year-old mother is deeply relieved to be free and reunited with her son Mutasim, who was just eight years-old when she went to prison, she is cognisant of all the time that she has missed.

“When I left he was just a boy, now he is a teenager, with hair on his legs and body. He is almost a man,” she said.

Updated: November 27, 2023, 8:33 AM