Arab news outlets have reported that Israel will release senior Hamas official Muhammad Abu-Tir on Thursday. Abu Tir is a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament who was arrested by Israel following the abduction of First Sgt. Gilad Shalit in 2006.
He is a well-known figure among Israelis, not least because of his beard, which he dies red with henna, for obscure religious reasons.
Abu Tir had been sentenced to life in prison on terror charges but was released in 2005 after serving only seven years, and was allowed to run for the PA Legislative Council. He was elected to the council as a representative for eastern Jerusalem.
Israel released a former minister in the Hamas government, Wasfi Kabha, last month. Nine senior Hamas officials were released in September.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) pleaded with Defense Minister Ehud Barak not to release Abu Tir. In a letter he sent Barak on Wednesday evening, Ben Ari said he had been “shocked” to hear of Abu Tir's impending release. Abu Tir's hands, he said, “are soaked with the blood of Jews.”
“In any normal country,” Ben Ari went on, a man like Abu Tir “would find himself deep in the ground or at least in jail for the rest of his life,” but Israel wants to release him. Abu Tir, he added, “is also a huge bargaining chip in the matter of Gilad Shalit.”
Ben Ari suggested that Barak issue a warrant for the administrative detention of Abu Tir upon his release.