Israel frees Palestinian lawmaker after a year behind bars

Agence France-Presse

Israel released Tuesday the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, an AFP reporter said, after almost a year in prison following an army crackdown over the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.

Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was arrested on June 16, 2014 as Israel staged a massive manhunt for three teenagers who were snatched from a road in the southern West Bank by Palestinian militants linked to Hamas.

During the search, which lasted until June 30 when their bodies were found, Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians, most of them members of Hamas.

The crackdown — the biggest in a decade — triggered a surge of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the Islamist movement's stronghold, which ultimately led to a 50-day war in and around the coastal enclave, the third in six years.

According the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners' Club, 12 of the 130 MPs in the PLC are being held by Israel, including Dweik.

The council has not met since 2007 following a major rift between the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and its Hamas rival, which saw the Islamist movement forcibly expelling Fatah loyalists from Gaza.