Watch: Palestinian mother's emotional reunion with daughter released after 8 years

A total of 39 prisoners were released by Israeli authorities under a truce agreement to pause the fighting in Gaza

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Photo: Screengrab
Photo: Screengrab

Published: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 10:25 AM

Last updated: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 12:36 PM

A truly moving video of a mother-daughter reunion after 8 years has gone viral after the hostage and prisoner exchange took place on Friday between Israel and Palestine.

The story of Malak Salman is one such story among many after the truce saw 39 Palestinians return home to families after years of separation.

The 23-year old who was not due to be released until 2025, returned to a triumphant welcome in her neighbourhood of Beit Safafa.

The viral video captures the moment Malak enters her home and runs towards her mother's embrace. The two are seen rejoicing in tears and screams, unable to let go of each other.

"The Israeli police are at our house and are preventing people from coming to see us," said Fatina Salman, Malak's mother. "My daughter is weak, she hasn't eaten since yesterday."

Firecrackers lit up the night sky Friday as raucous celebrations — mixed with defiance — marked the release of Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons in exchange for the first wave of hostages freed by Hamas in Gaza.

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

A total of 39 prisoners were released by Israeli authorities under a truce agreement to pause the fighting in Gaza, after 13 hostages from Israel had been handed over.

Under the deal, Hamas is to release at least 50 hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners, over the four days. Israel said the truce can be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.

"I am happy but my liberation came at the price of the blood of the martyrs," said Marah Bakir, 24, referring to the nearly 15,000 deaths across the Gaza Strip that were caused by Israel's intense attacks.

Marah Bakir, right, a former Palestinian prisoner who was released by the Israeli authorities, is welcome at her family house in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. AP
Marah Bakir, right, a former Palestinian prisoner who was released by the Israeli authorities, is welcome at her family house in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. AP

Freedom from "the four walls of the prison" was "magnificent", said Bakir, who had been in custody for eight years.

"I spent the end of my childhood and my adolescence in prison, far from my parents and their hugs," she told AFP after returning to her family home in Beit Hanina in annexed east Jerusalem.

"That's how it is with a state that oppresses us."

Hanan Al-Barghouti, 58, released after two months in Israeli custody, lauded the armed wing of Hamas, its leader, and the people of Gaza.

Former Palestinian female prisoner Hanna Barghouti, who was released by the Israeli authorities, talks to the media upon her arrival in the West Bank town of Beitunia, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. AP
Former Palestinian female prisoner Hanna Barghouti, who was released by the Israeli authorities, talks to the media upon her arrival in the West Bank town of Beitunia, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. AP

"May God reward them well on our behalf," she said. "If it were not for the people of Gaza, we would not have seen freedom."

"We were inside the prison, eating bitterness. They were sadists. They insulted us and humiliated us, but our pride is high and our dignity is elevated, thanks to the resistance."

Fifteen dazed young men, all in stained grey prison sweatsuits and looking gaunt with exhaustion, glided through the streets on the shoulders of their teary-eyed fathers as fireworks turned the night sky to blazing colour and patriotic Palestinian pop music blared.

Palestinian prisoners (wearing grey jumpers) cheer after being released from the Israeli Ofer military facility in Baytunia near the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in exchange for hostages freed by Hamas in Gaza, on November 24, 2023. AFP
Palestinian prisoners (wearing grey jumpers) cheer after being released from the Israeli Ofer military facility in Baytunia near the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in exchange for hostages freed by Hamas in Gaza, on November 24, 2023. AFP

Before their release, clouds of white smoke filled the air close to the prison as Israeli authorities fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. The Palestinian Red Crescent said three people were shot and wounded by Israeli security forces.

Members of Israeli security forces launch tear gas during clashes with Palestinian protesters in the Wadi Joz neighbourhood in east Jerusalem, on November 24, 2023. AFP
Members of Israeli security forces launch tear gas during clashes with Palestinian protesters in the Wadi Joz neighbourhood in east Jerusalem, on November 24, 2023. AFP

Although the atmosphere was festive in the town of Beitunia near Israel's hulking Ofer Prison in the West Bank, people were on edge.

The Israeli government has ordered police to shut down celebrations over the release. Israeli security forces at one point unleashed tear gas canisters on the crowds, sending young men, old women and small children sprinting away as they wept and screamed in pain.

“The army is trying to take this moment away from us but they can’t,” Mays Foqaha said as she tumbled into the arms of her newly released 18-year-old friend, Nour al-Taher from Nablus, who was arrested during a protest in September at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. ”This is our day of victory."

Here are some images from teary-eyed reunions as the raging war was put on hold.

Family members react as they welcome released Palestinian prisoner Fatima Amarneh. Reuters
Family members react as they welcome released Palestinian prisoner Fatima Amarneh. Reuters
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters
Hanin Barghouti (L) a Palestinian prisoner held in an Israeli prison is greeted by her family on her release. AFP
Hanin Barghouti (L) a Palestinian prisoner held in an Israeli prison is greeted by her family on her release. AFP
Rawda Abu Ajamieh hugs relatives and friends after her release from an Israeli prison. AFP
Rawda Abu Ajamieh hugs relatives and friends after her release from an Israeli prison. AFP
Fatima Shaheen' daughter Aylool gently caresses her mother's cheek after her release from an Israeli prison. AFP
Fatima Shaheen' daughter Aylool gently caresses her mother's cheek after her release from an Israeli prison. AFP
Unable to walk, Fatima Shaheen hugs her daughter Aylool as she sits inside an ambulance after her release from an Israeli prison. AFP
Unable to walk, Fatima Shaheen hugs her daughter Aylool as she sits inside an ambulance after her release from an Israeli prison. AFP
A released Palestinian prisoner kisses a loved one as she leaves the Israeli military prison, Ofer. Reuters
A released Palestinian prisoner kisses a loved one as she leaves the Israeli military prison, Ofer. Reuters

The October 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israeli communities left 1,200 people dead — the worst death toll since the creation of Israel in 1948 — according to Israeli authorities.

On the Palestinian side officials say more people have died in Gaza in the current wave of Israeli strikes than during the two intifadas put together.

Inputs from AP, AFP

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