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Hamas Receives Praise from West Bank Residents for Securing Release of Palestinian Prisoners

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180 Palestinian teenagers and women have recently been freed from Israeli prisons in the West Bank in what is the largest release of prisoners and detainees in more than a decade. The prisoners were traded for 81 hostages captured during the Hamas-led terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7. The release is part of a deal that also includes a temporary cease-fire in the war in Gaza. The support for Hamas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is deepening as a result of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the joy over the prisoners’ release. Many in the West Bank now believe that Hamas and other armed groups are the only ones they can trust to protect them.

The Palestinian Authority, controlled by the Fatah political faction, is deeply unpopular and widely seen as a subcontractor to the Israeli occupation. The popularity of Hamas among the residents in the West Bank has been exacerbated by an increase in violence by Israeli settlers. Despite the fact that support for the group is limited to a minority of residents, many say the growing support has taken on a new, more existential quality.

The release of prisoners has become a potent symbol of Hamas’s ability and willingness to fight for the Palestinian cause for many Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank. Each night in Ramallah, as new batches of prisoners were released, one refrain echoed across the crowds: “The people want Hamas! The people want Hamas!” Although analysts caution that support for the group is limited to a minority of residents and tends to rise temporarily during conflicts in Gaza, many say the growing support today has taken on a new, more existential quality.

Hours after his release, Anwar Atta and his cousin, Mourad, sat outside their families’ homes on the outskirts of Ramallah. Anwar was arrested for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, which he says was an act of resistance spurred by an Israeli military offensive in Gaza. The instant bonding of the two cousins with their community has become an important point of celebration for their neighbors and relatives, and has highlighted the frustrations and anger in the West Bank due to Israeli policies.

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Photo credit www.nytimes.com

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