Wafa al-Ahrar: Historic victory and hope of new prisoners' swap

October 18, 2021

The Palestinian people are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoners' swap deal, one of the most prominent exchange agreements between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation. 

Social media had been swamped with images of freed Palestinian detainees boarding buses and al-Qassam Bridges commander Ahmad al-Jabari, the deal’s architect, reflecting a widespread Palestinian joy over this historic achievement.

Ten years ago today, the Palestinian resistance released Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian detainees upon a swap agreement, brokered by Egypt, on 11 October 2011.

The agreement was seen as a success for the Palestinian resistance who managed to hold the Israeli occupation soldier for more than five years and push the Israeli occupation to hammer out a swap deal to release him.

Successful Deal

June 25, 2006, was a memorable day when the Palestinian Resistance captured the Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit during a joint operation of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, the al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, and the Army of Islam.

Shalit was captured from inside his tank east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the freedom fighters Hamed al-Rantisi and Mohammed Farwaneh have been martyred by Israeli occupation forces during the operation.

Conducted in less than 15 minutes in an Israeli military post in eastern Rafah, the operation reelected high military competence and meticulous pre-planning.

In the first stage of the deal, 450 Palestinian detainees and 27 women were released from Israeli prisons in exchange for the captured Israeli occupation soldier, whereas in the second stage, two months later, 550 others were freed.

Before the swap agreement, the Israeli occupation authorities released 20 Palestinian female detainees from its jails in return for a video proving that Shalit was alive.   

Historical Achievement

The Wafa al-Ahrar prisoners' swap deal is deemed a historic accomplishment for the Palestinian resistance that reflects a bright sense of unity as it included the release of prisoners from various Palestinian factions and some of the longest-serving detainees.

In addition, detainees from the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and the 1948 occupied Palestinian territories, in addition to the occupied Golan Heights were freed upon this agreement. 

Throughout his capture in the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, the Israeli occupation forces failed to locate Shalit’s place even though they had dedicated all of their intelligence services to find any lead on his whereabouts.

The Palestinian resistance has managed to force the Israeli occupation to break long-standing taboos against not releasing some of the longest-serving Palestinian detainees and female prisoners in its jails.     

New Swap Deal

During the 2014 Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, the al-Qassam Brigades captured several Israeli occupation soldiers, raising hope of a new prisoner exchange agreement to free thousands of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails. 

Hamas has refused to enter into talks to hammer out a new swap deal before the Israeli occupation authorities release all former detainees who were re-detained after being freed upon the Wafa al-Ahrar agreement.

In previous statements, the al-Qassam Brigades stated that the Israeli occupation government was “lying and deceiving its people” about the fate of the Israeli occupation soldiers captured in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Later, the head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh said that Hamas was willing to negotiate a prisoners' swap deal with the Israeli occupation authorities just with a third party involved.

The Palestinian resistance continues to offer its people a ray of hope for a future with no occupation in which Palestinian detainees will enjoy their freedom.