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Israeli forces rearrest Palestinian man celebrating release after 20 years in prison

Magd Barbar's welcome home party raided by the Israeli military, who wounded several Palestinians, before releasing him again on Wednesday
Magd Barbar, a Palestinian prisoner from the occupied East Jerusalem, reunited with his wife Fatmeh, and his son and daughter after 20 years in Israeli jails (Social Media)

The scenes of jubilation following the Tuesday release of Magd Barbar, a Palestinian man who spent 20 years in jail, were brought to an abrupt and violent halt that night when he was rearrested by Israeli forces.

Barbar was later released on Wednesday afternoon, the Handala Center NGO said.

The 45-year-old was first arrested in 2001 at the peak of the Second Intifada, and was charged with belonging to the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Marxist-Leninist group, and plotting military acts against Israeli targets. When he was arrested, Barbar was forced to leave behind a 15-day-old daughter and two-year-old son.

Israeli forces raided Barbar’s home on Tuesday evening while hosting guests and relatives who came to visit him. Palestine’s Red Crescent reported that 12 people were wounded by rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas suffocation and beatings.

Israeli forces also raided Qasr al-Hamra hall in the East Jerusalem suburb of Eizariya where Barbar planned to host a lunch for friends and relatives the next day, as people eagerly sought to receive him after two decades in prison.

Izz, Barbar’s brother, told media that Israeli forces asked the family to get rid of all welcoming signs in the house on Tuesday, before returning in numbers to raid the home and rearrest him.

In video footage of Barbar leaving custody on Wednesday, the former prisoner said he refused an Israeli request to leave his home in East Jerusalem's Ras al-Amoud for five days, without elaborating on where they wanted to send him or why.

On Monday, after reuniting with his family and wife, Fatmeh, Barbar said: "For a person who believes in the justice of the Palestinian cause, a prison cannot break him, no matter how long it lasts, and I was reconciled with this idea of the length of my prison sentence and with all its oppression and my exclusion from my family, my wife and my children."

“The Palestinian people cannot think of an option other than to hold fast in their land, and to stand in it like the olive tree. We will not leave this land no matter what [Israelis] did, from killings to demolishing homes," Barbar added.

Barbar told media that his wife Fatmeh "means the world to me. She is my home. She was able to give our children for 20 years. This is the greatness of the Palestinian woman."

His rearrest generated strong reactions on social media. Ghada Oueiss, a Lebanese Al Jazeera anchor, said on Facebook that the Israelis arrested Barbar "because they couldn't stand Palestinian celebrations of his release. They arrested him because he and his family rejoiced... and because occupation is ugly and hates everything beautiful."

According to Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, 4,400 Palestinians were being detained by Israel as of March, with 33 of them serving more than 25 years and 57 serving more than 20 years. Three hundred prisoners are from occupied East Jerusalem, like Barbar.