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Longest-serving Palestinian detainee in Israeli prisons free after 40 years

Jerusalem24 – The longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli detention, Karim Younis, was released today after spending 40 years in Israeli prisons.

66-year-old Younis was freed and left in the city of Ra’anana, about 20km north of Tel Aviv, by Israeli authorities before dawn this morning, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

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

Younis, along with his cousin, Maher Younis, were convicted by Israel in 1983 of killing an Israeli soldier three years prior in the occupied Golan Heights and were sentenced to life in prison, which was later reduced to 40 years.

Younis was arrested on 6 January 1983 during his undergraduate studies at Ben-Gurion University in the city of Beersheba.

Younis was set to be released in 2013 as part of a deal negotiated by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The agreement would have freed 25 prisoners held in Israeli prisons since before the Oslo Accords of 1993. However, Israel refused to release him, saying that as Younis had Israeli citizenship, it was an “internal issue”.

Younis’ family was initially informed that he would be released at noon on Thursday.

“They moved me from one vehicle to the other vehicles, which angered me, then left me at a bus station and told me to head home to Ara from there,” Younis told reporters. “I found Palestinian workers in the bus station and asked to call my family.”

First photo of freed prisoner Karim Younis after his release with Palestinian worker, Adel Hayk. 5 January 2023 [Photo shared on Facebook]
The Israeli police raided Younis’ family home overnight and confiscated banners his family had set up to celebrate his return and issued a warning not to play any Palestinian revolutionary songs, according to WAFA.

Younis who was received by dozens in his hometown of Ara, headed to Maher’s family home to pay a visit to Maher’s mother, before visiting the cemetery where his parents are buried.

Karim Younis’ mother, who passed away seven months before his release, holds a portrait of her son, April 2017. [Source: WAFA]
Younis’ mother died in May 2022, seven months before the scheduled release of her son. His father died in 2013.

“My mother was an ambassador for all prisoners of freedom,” said Younis. “My mother bore more than she could, but she chose to see me from heaven after a long wait.”

Video footage circulating on social media shows Younis hugging the gravestones of his parents.

Younis told journalists that “he didn’t feel anything” after being released. “I feel a void inside… Today I breathed fresh air, saw the sun. I hope I get used to this in the coming days.”

The head of the Israeli governing coalition, MK Ofir Katz, has called on the coalition and opposition parties to move jointly to pass a bill to revoke the citizenship and residency and deport Palestinians who are involved in attacks against Israeli soldiers or civilians, including Karim and Maher Younis.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri called on Tuesday 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.

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

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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