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Israel releases oldest Palestinian prisoner after 17 years in jail

Israel on Monday released the oldest Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails after 17 years behind bars.

Fuad al-Shubaki, 83, was set free from Ashkelon prison in central Israel and was transferred by an ambulance to the Tarqumia checkpoint, west of Hebron city, where he was welcomed by his family.

In his first comments after his release, al-Shubaki called for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

According to Palestinian figures, there are 4,780 Palestinians held by Israel, including 160 children and 29 female inmates.

The Palestinian Prisoner Society NGO said al-Shubaki suffers from chronic diseases and relied on his fellow inmates to meet his physical needs while in prison.

Born in 1940 in Gaza, al-Shubaki was a senior member of the Fatah group and escorted late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on many of his external visits.

In January 2002, Israel seized a shipment of weapons on a ship – known as Karine A – in the Red Sea while on its way to Palestinians.

Israel blamed al-Shubaki for the weapons shipment and arrested him in March 2006 from a Palestinian prison in Jericho city where he had been held there under US and British guards since 2002.

*Writing by Ahmed Asmar in Ankara

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