RAMALLAH: In Palestinian cities in the occupied West Bank, long the turf of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, the green flag of Hamas is flying ever higher thanks to prisoner-hostage exchanges.
For three nights, Palestinians have celebrated the return of dozens of detainees freed from Israeli jails, in exchange for women and children seized during Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.
That has seen the popularity of Hamas soar in the West Bank, run by Abbas’ Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.
Ahmed Abdelaziz, 63, joined the celebrations on Sunday.
“I’m here in solidarity and because I appreciate what Hamas has done. Seeing these young people get out of prison thanks to the resistance, I’m overjoyed,” he said.
“The joy of the prisoners’ families, the mobilization of the people, all that is pushing me toward supporting Hamas.”
Israel released 117 Palestinian prisoners during the first three days of a four-day Gaza truce deal.
Hamas freed 39 hostages under the agreement, plus 19 foreign nationals in additional releases, out of the roughly 240 people it snatched during the deadliest attack in Israel’s history.
In Ramallah, freed prisoners carried on the shoulders of their supporters and draped in the Hamas flag said they prayed for “God to give strength to the resistance” — referring to Hamas and the other armed groups in Gaza.
“They say Hamas are terrorists, but we are all Hamas,” shouted the crowd.
In Al-Bireh, a Ramallah suburb where Israel detained the elected Hamas mayor at the start of the war, a few yellow Fatah flags can be seen.
But for marcher Tareq Al-Omla, Hamas — listed as a terrorist organization by the US, Israel and the EU — has more legitimacy than Fatah.
The group was acting on “behalf of the Palestinian people who are attacked every day by Israeli soldiers and settlers,” he said.
Asked about the violence against civilians at Israeli kibbutzim and a rave during the Hamas attacks, demonstrator Jihad Ayuch said: “The story started before that, and the real question is what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians before October 7.”