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Israel releases Palestinian MP Hassan Yousef

Hamas leader Hassan Yousef walks free after a year in Israeli custody, just weeks after Palestine’s parliamentary speaker was freed
Hamas leader Hassan Yousef smiles as he receives visitors in his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah after being released from an Israeli prison 4 August 2011 (AFP)

JERUSALEM - Israel on Thursday released Hassan Yousef, a Hamas-affiliated member of Palestine’s parliament, the Islamist movement said.

Yousef’s release comes a year after his arrest along with dozens of other Hamas leaders during a military search campaign for three missing Israeli teenagers.

Israeli “occupation forces on Thursday released Yousef after he was in administrative detention for an entire year," Hamas said in a news report on its website, Hamas.ps.

Israel's military did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

The army arrested Yousef, who was born in 1954, in June 2014 as part of a round-up of hundreds of members of Hamas in the occupied West Bank.

The arrests followed the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, which the Israeli government blamed on Hamas militants.

Those incidents and the brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian boy in East Jerusalem the following month by Jewish extremists triggered events that led to a deadly 51-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

After being arrested, an Israeli military court renewed Yousef’s administrative detention three times and he was being held in Ofer prison west of Ramallah.

Under administrative detention, a procedure dating back to the British mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, Israel can hold prisoners for indefinitely renewable six-month periods without charge.

Hamas says Yousef, who has spent years in Israeli jails and was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006 while in Israeli custody, has worked entirely in the political wing of the movement.

Before being arrested in June 2014, Yousef participated in a protest supporting Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and was allegedly assaulted by Palestinian Authority security forces, according to Ma’an News Agency.

Yousef’s release comes shortly after Aziz Duwaik, the elected speaker of the PLC, was also freed from Israeli jails after spending a year behind bars.

Yousef is known for having disowned his son after he worked as an informant for Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency under the codename "The Green Prince".

His 36-year-old son, Mosab Hassan Yousef, admitted several years ago to being a top informant for Israel's domestic security service during the Second Intifada (uprising) that began in 2000.

According to the Ahrar Center, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights organisation, 10 members of Palestine’s parliament are being held in Israeli prisons.

Israeli forces regularly raid Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and detain locals.

Over 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in prisons throughout Israel, according to official Palestinian figures.