About 2,000 family members and friends were waiting when 21 of the 26 prisoners released Tuesday night arrived at the Mukataa Palestinian Authority government compound in Ramallah. They were welcomed with an official reception attended by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdullah.
The compound was secured by dozens of Palestinian police officers who prevented the prisoners' families from entering with Hamas flags. Abbas, who shook hands with each released prisoner, said at the reception: "There will not be an agreement with Israel as long as there are Palestinians in prison. From here I say to all the prisoners -- your release is imminent."
At the end of the official ceremony at the Mukataa, the released prisoners returned home to family festivities.
In the Gaza Strip, the five remaining released prisoners returned to their families with only modest celebrations. Hamas forbade celebratory events in their honor, and Gaza-based media ignored the celebrations in the West Bank.
In Jerusalem, celebrations for the released prisoners were described as "a parade of convicted murderers." According to a government source, "Israel was disappointed by the celebrations organized by the Palestinian Authority with the return of the murderers who killed innocent Israeli citizens." A source stated that "terror should be condemned, not celebrated."
The PA condemned the Israeli government's announcement of extensive new construction in Judea and Samaria, but a source from Abbas' office told Israel Hayom that no one in Ramallah was surprised by the announcement. Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, repeatedly denied that Israel's building plans were agreed to within the framework of negotiations.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor filed a complaint Wednesday at the U.N. about Abbas' condolence letter to the family of terrorist Mohamed Aatzi, who was responsible for the November 2012 bus bombing in Tel Aviv.
"Terrorism does not begin with an attack on a bus or a cafe," Prosor said. "That is how terrorism ends. Terrorism begins when its perpetrators are indoctrinated with words and thoughts of hate." He added that Abbas' letter was "just the most recent example of the incitement poisoning the next generation ... Palestinian children are being taught hate instead of peace; violence instead of tolerance; and martyrdom instead of mutual understanding."