Photo Album

Released Palestinian Prisoners Return Home to Jerusalem

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Zeina Abdo (right), 18, returns home to the neighborhood of Jabal Mukabbir in East Jerusalem on November 24, 2023, after five months of imprisonment preceded by eight months of house arrest. Prior to that, Abdo had been arrested in April 2021 while walking near Herod’s Gate; she was assaulted and severely beaten before being released.


Malak Salman (center), 23, returns to her home in East Jerusalem with the first batch of released prisoners on November 24, 2023. Salman had been arrested in 2016 at age 16 and sentenced to nine years, of which she had served eight for charges she denies. Hours before her homecoming, Israeli police swarmed the family home, ripping down decorations and intimidating the family to pressure them not to celebrate. “They stole the joy of my daughter’s release,” her mother, Fatima Salman, told CNN. 


Mostafa Alkharouf—Anadolu Agency

Palestinian prisoner Marah Bakir (left), 24, returns home to Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, after being released from Ofer Prison on November 24, 2023. Bakir was arrested in 2015 when she was only 16 and sentenced to eight years, six months on charges she denies. During her arrest on her way home from school in Sheikh Jarrah, she was shot 12 times. She went on to become a spokesperson for all the female prisoners held at Damon Prison in northern Israel. After October 7, prison authorities moved her to Jalame Prison and placed her in solitary confinement. Before she came home, Israeli police stormed her family home and warned her father that he would be arrested if they dared to celebrate.


Muammar Awad/Xinhua via ZUMA Press / APA Images

Shorouq Dwayyat, 25, embraces a relative upon her release from an Israeli prison on November 25, 2023. Dwayyat was arrested at age 16 on charges she denies and had served 8 years of her 16-year sentence, the longest sentence for a Palestinian female prisoner at this time.  She returned home to her family in Sur Bahir, East Jerusalem.


Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images

Qassam, 17, and Nasrallah A’war, 16, embrace their father upon their release from an Israeli prison on November 26, 2023, after each spending more than a year in jail, during which they were deprived of their education. The two brothers had been detained several times before that, starting when they were just four and five years old. The family lives in Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighborhood coveted by Israeli settlers, and Palestinian children are not uncommonly abducted and jailed as a way to pressure families into relocating.


Ahmad Gharable/AFP via Getty Images

Khalil A’war (left), 17, a teenager from the East Jerusalem town of Silwan, and his father embrace upon the teen’s release from an Israeli prison on November 26, 2023. A’war was arrested in November 2022 and sentenced to eight months and one day. Upon his release, A’war didn’t give any statements to the media, because the Israeli authorities threatened released prisoners with dire consequences (including rearrest or bodily harm to family members) if they did.


Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Muhammad al-A’war (center) is welcomed by friends and family in Silwan, East Jerusalem, after being freed from an Israeli prison on November 26, 2023. Al-A’war, who was 16 years old when arrested, had served 16 months out of his 32-month sentence when he was released.


Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Prominent Palestinian prisoner Israa Jaabis (center), 37, arrives at her home in the Jabal Mukabbir neighborhood of East Jerusalem upon her release from an Israeli prison on November 26, 2023. Jaabis, who was arrested in October 2015 and served an 11-year sentence, was accused of detonating a car bomb; she and her family have denied the charges and claimed that a tank of propane gas she was carrying in her car exploded and caused a fire, leaving her with third-degree burns across 65 percent of her body, including on her face and hands. Her injuries were long left untreated in prison. Jaabis’s son, Mua‘tassim, 15, who stands by her side in the photo, had been separated from his mother since he was eight years old.


Oren Ziv/AFP via Getty Images

Neshat Dawabisha hugs his mother upon his release from an Israeli prison on November 26, 2023. In June, Dawabisha, 17, had been sentenced to 32 months in prison; he was released after 6 months as part of the prisoner exchange agreement between Hamas and Israel.


Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images

Ahmed Nawaf al-Salayma, 14, embraces his father upon his release from Damon Prison in northern Israel, where his father had also been held some 30 years ago. As a former prisoner, al-Salayma’s father was not allowed to visit his son, nor was his mother, who holds a Palestinian Authority ID, since entering Israel would require her to receive a military entry permit, a privilege routinely denied for relatives of those charged with perpetrating alleged “security offenses.” During his four months in jail, the youngest prisoner never once saw his parents. He was never charged with anything. Al-Salayma was released November 28, 2023. 


Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images

Qassam Mahmoud Attoun (left), 16, and Mohammad Emad Attoun (right), 18, from the Sur Bahir neighborhood of East Jerusalem, pose for a picture together after being released on November 28, 2023. Upon seeing his son, Qassam’s father commented on his weight loss, asking, “Didn’t they feed you?” Both were arrested in late January 2023 but not charged with anything.


Saeed Qaq/Anadolu via Getty Images

Mohammed Khalil al-Salayma (center), 16, is joyfully celebrated by his friends and family in Jerusalem as he returns home to his neighborhood of Ras al-Amud from an Israeli prison on November 28, 2023. Al-Salayma and two other children of his extended family have previously spent a few months in home confinement before turning themselves in for incarceration over throwing stones.


Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images

After lengthy negotiations, 180 Palestinian prisoners have been released from Israeli prisons, between November 24 and 28, 2023, in exchange for 82 prisoners of Israeli and other nationalities who were being held in Gaza following the October 7 Operation al-Aqsa Flood and Israel’s war on Gaza.1

Among the released Palestinian prisoners, 64 are Jerusalemites from various East Jerusalem neighborhoods and towns, including Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and Sur Bahir.2 The Jerusalemite prisoners released so far (as of this writing) include about 20 women and 44 children who were being tried in military courts and held in military prisons in violation of children’s rights conventions.3 An analysis by NBC News of the list of 300 Palestinian prisoners slated for release found that 80 percent were not convicted of any crimes. Some were simply abducted from their homes in the dead of night for no stated reasons.4 Their purported offenses range from assembling or association, incitement (e.g. on social media), throwing stones, “state security offenses,” support for terrorism, damaging property, assault on police officers, membership in or service to an illegal organization, throwing stones, throwing bombs/molotov cocktails, stabbing, attempted murder. Many were being held under administrative detention, without any charges or access to lawyers or legal processes.5

This album compiles just a few selected stories of individuals released as part of the hostage-prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel in the midst of a temporary pause in fighting during the war on Gaza from November 24 to 30, 2023.

Upon their release, Palestinian prisoners talked about the dire prison conditions they had been subjected to, which included ill-treatment, humiliation, beatings multiple times per day, starvation, withholding medical treatment even for severe injuries, solitary confinement, exposure to cold without proper clothing, confiscation of mattresses and sleeping blankets, and overcrowding. After October 7, they reported, the treatment was much harsher than it had been previously.

According to statements by released prisoners and their families, Israeli authorities are banning any forms of public celebration and the waving of Palestinian flags as the prisoners return home. In East Jerusalem, Israeli police and security forces stormed into the homes of prisoners who were scheduled for release; they warned their families not to host celebratory gatherings and threatened to rearrest their loved ones if they did. In many instances, Israeli forces ordered media correspondents as well as neighbors and relatives to leave the prisoners’ houses and confiscated sweets, which are usually shared in celebration.

After months (for many, years) spent in the Israeli prisons of Damon, Ketziot (Naqab), al-Moskobiyya, and others, we see in these pictures Palestinian women and children returning home and reuniting with their families in East Jerusalem.

Despite the joy of regaining their freedom, they all expressed their sorrow for the Palestinian lives lost in Gaza, as well as the thousands of Palestinian prisoners who remain behind bars. They are well aware that at any time they themselves can be rearrested under false accusations (or no accusations at all), held without trial, or subjected to a trial based on secret evidence, forced confessions, and other procedures that abrogate any type of due process.



Laura Gozzi, “Boy, 14, and Freelance Reporter among Palestinians Freed,” BBC News, November 28, 2023.


Information about specific cases in this Photo Album comes largely from a database compiled by Laura E. Adkins, Opinion Editor of The Forward, primarily using records publicly released by the Israeli Prison Service, as well as media reports. Adkins compiled a database for prisoners released each day and shared it on her Twitter feed, @Laura_E_Adkins. See Laura E. Adkins, “Israeli Prison Service Publicly Released Records,” November 29, 2023. Some additional information was compiled from various media reports.


Ivana Kottasová, Barbara Arvanitidis, Nima Elbagir, Abeer Salman, and Alex Platt, “Release of Palestinian Prisoners Sheds Light on Controversial Israeli Justice System in the Occupied West Bank,” CNN, November 29, 2023; updated December 8, 2023.


David Noriega, “Israeli Prisoner Release Shines Light on System of Detaining Prisoners without Charge,” NBC News, November 30, 2023; Kottasová et al., “Release of Palestinian Prisoners.”


Mazier Motamedi, “Jailed without Charge: How Israel Holds Thousands of Palestinian Prisoners,” Al Jazeera, November 29, 2023.

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