For years, Palestinian families have held a weekly vigil inside or outside the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City to protest the detention and demand the freedom of their loved ones inside Israeli prisons.
Mothers, fathers, and at times entire families would join these vigils, carrying framed photos and posters of their sons and daughters. But since the last prisoner exchange between the Gaza Resistance and Israel in 2011, there has been no good news worthy of reporting. Israel continues to hold nearly 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 40 women and 200 children.
But today was different. The families that join this regular gathering, which is often wrapped in grief and end in tears and prayers, had a reason to celebrate.
Six Palestinian prisoners, most of them serving a life term for resisting the Israeli occupation, broke out Monday morning of Gilboa prison in northern Israel after digging a tunnel, according to Israeli reports.
The escaped prisoners spent months, or perhaps years, digging the tunnel that led them to escape during the night. Their breakout was not detected until hours later as the Israeli army started a wide-scale search for the prisoners.
True, the news will not alter the current equation, where Israel continues to detain scores of Palestinians every week, but for these Gaza families, the bravery of these six prisoners gives them hope that anything is possible and that freedom can be achieved under the harshest of circumstances. So, unlike previous vigils, the families here had something cheerful to talk about.
Expectedly, large plates of baklava were brought in, and the passers-by were urged to join in the celebration. Today, the mothers did not cry but prayed for the safety of the escaped prisoners and that their children too may soon be free.
(Photos: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)