Israel released a prominent Hamas terrorist last week, according to Hamas sources. Jamal al-Tawil, considered the leader of Hamas in the Ramallah region, was involved in a Jerusalem suicide bombing in 2001 and was elected mayor of the Ramallah-area village of Al-Bireh while still in prison.  

It is unclear whether the senior terrorist's release is a "good-will gesture," part of a prisoner release to gain the freedom of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit or simply a scheduled release. Al-Tawil's sentence had been served but he was being held in administrative detention and his name repeatedly appeared on lists exchanged between Israel and Hamas with regard to a prisoner swap for Shalit.

Al-Tawil, whose nephew had been a suicide bomber, founded a front-group to pose as an Islamic charity, which in fact funded Hamas terrorist activities in Judea and Samaria. He was involved in terrorism for more than a decade, and was even deported to south Lebanon in December 1992, where he was in constant contact with the Hamas leadership in Syria and Lebanon. He returned to Israel nine months later.

His most recent jail term was handed down after a plea bargain and was for membership in Hamas, assistance of terrorists and their families and the possession of illegal guns.

Al-Tawil had been jailed for six years prior to the release. His name had not been released by Israeli authorities and the announcement of his release was made on a Hamas-affiliated web site that hailed it as a victory for the Islamist movement.

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