As well as cousin Karim Younis, released a fortnight ago

Israel releases Maher Younis, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner

Maher Younis, 65, was released after spending 40 years in Israeli jails, the Palestinian prisoner who has served the longest sentence, 40 years, like his cousin Karim Younis, who was released a fortnight ago. 

Maher was released by the Israeli authorities at around 6.30 local time (4.30 GMT) from Hedarim prison, near Tel Aviv, both the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and the Israeli Prison Service confirmed to EFE. 

Maher and Karim Younis were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1983 for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Avi Bromberg three years earlier. Later, then Israeli President Shimon Peres reduced their sentence to 40 years in prison. 

"Greetings to all those who said I am Palestinian and free. I look forward to meeting you with love and loyalty, and I am waiting for the moment, after years behind bars, to see the great masses chanting in the name of Palestine. I am excited to see the young generation full of values and aware of our problems and future," Maher said in a message sent on the eve of his release, reported by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. 

Maher is now on his way to his native Ara, an Arab village that fell within Israel's borders in 1948 and whose population harbours strong Palestinian national sentiment, where his cousin Karim, who served the same sentence as him, was given a hero's welcome a fortnight ago. 

The new National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, has ordered the police to prevent any celebrations in Ara like those that took place in the wake of Karim's release, in addition to banning the flying of the Palestinian flag. 

Karim arrived in his home village amidst applause and cheers, wrapped in a kufiya, the traditional Palestinian headscarf, and raising the Palestinian flag, upsetting the Israeli authorities, who have warned the Younis family to refrain from celebrations on the day. 

According to Wafa, police special forces and intelligence agents are deployed in the vicinity of his family home to prevent any celebrations upon his arrival, although dozens of supporters gathered there early in the morning to greet him. 

Minister Ben Gvir, an extremist known for his anti-Arab rhetoric, is using the release of the Younis cousins to press his call for the death penalty for "terrorists". 

According to the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, Israel has imprisoned and detained more than 800,000 Palestinians since the beginning of its occupation in 1967 and is currently holding some 4,700 Palestinians, including 150 children and 34 women, in its illegal detention centres. 

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