Israeli occupation releases freedom fighter Fouad Al-Shobaki

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Taghreed Saadeh

The eldest serving Palestinian freedom fighter, Major General Fouad Shobaki, 63, was released from prison today after completing 17 years behind bars, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.

Al-Shobaki was released from Ashkelon prison, and arrived by ambulance at the Tarqumiya crossing, west of Hebron, where he was received by the deputy head of the Fatah movement, Mahmoud al-Aloul, members of the movement’s central committee, representatives of the national action factions, his family, and thousands of Palestinian fans.

After his release, Al-Shobaki called for “work to release the prisoners.” He said, “The prisoners are martyrs with a suspended sentence, who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the Palestinian cause, and the urgent need to find an immediate solution for them.”

He said, “The struggle must continue until the liberation of our homeland, and for the sake of the prisoners who are projects of martyrdom inside the occupation prisons, and we must work for all of them to obtain their freedom.”

The “Fatah” movement prepared a program to receive Al-Shobaki, starting with medical examinations for him upon his arrival in Ramallah, and then visiting the tomb of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Al-Shobaki was one of the personalities of a close relative of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and he returned to Palestine in 1995 after the signing of the “Oslo” agreement in 1993.

Shobaki, whose name was linked to the Karen A ship hijacked by Israeli units in the Red Sea on January 3, 2002, was born on March 12, 1940, in Gaza, in al-Tuffah neighborhood.

He is considered the eldest among the more than 4500 Palestinian freedom fighters incarcerated in Israel for their resistance of its occupation.

Shobaki is a member of Fatah and a major general in the Palestinian security forces and was responsible for the central military financial administration in the Palestinian security services.

On January 3, 2002, the Israeli occupation army carried out a military operation called Operation Noah’s Ark with the aim of commandeering the Karen A ship in the Red Sea, claiming that the ship was carrying military equipment for the Palestinians and was considered the mastermind in financing and smuggling the arms ship.

Shobaki was grabbed by the Israeli occupation forces on March 14, 2006, while held at Jericho Central Prison following an Israeli army raid of the prison and was sentenced to 20 years in prison later reduced to 17 years after he was found guilty by an Israeli military court of attempting to smuggle arms into the Palestinian territories.

He suffers from many health problems, in his eyes, stomach, heart, and high blood pressure and recently had to rely on fellow inmates to meet his physical needs.

His wife died in 2011 and he was forbidden to say goodbye to her. He has six children and nine grandchildren, most of whom he does not know.

In the details of the Karen A operation, the report of the “EFE Research” publication, which specializes in the issue of Israeli intelligence and security, revealed that the American and Israeli intelligence, which was monitoring a ship from the moment it moved from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, believed that the cargo was destined for Hezbollah. However, one of the crew members spoke about the destination on the radios, which were being eavesdropped by the American intelligence men, violating clear instructions that warned the crew not to talk about this subject and to maintain “complete silence on the radios.” Israel was quick to accuse Arafat of being behind the arms shipment, and an official in the Israeli Ministry of Defense said that “if it had reached the resistance, it would have been a quantum leap in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Arafat responded to these accusations, “accusing Israel of maneuvering. However, he agreed to bear the” moral responsibility “, according to an American request, after revealing the involvement of the PA’s financial official, Major General Fouad Al-Shobaki, in financing the operation.

Haaretz newspaper quoted Arafat’s letter as saying, “Although I did not know about the case and I am not involved in it, as the leader of the Palestinian Authority, I must be responsible for those who submit to me, even if they act contrary to my opinion, and I intend to bring them to trial.”

Arafat was satisfied with holding Al-Shobaki publicly responsible, but he refused to hand him over to the Israeli security services. Rather, he was keen to keep him by his side, with the Secretary-General of the Popular Front, Ahmed Saadat, at the Muqata’a headquarters during Operation Defensive Wall, before reaching a settlement after the aggression by detaining them in Jericho prison under American and British guard.

The occupation government at the time accused Arafat of being aware of the purchase of weapons from the beginning, and he is the one who supervises all Palestinian finances.

Hebrew newspapers later mentioned, in their claim of Shobaki’s confessions, “Abu Ammar’s use of millions of dollars to finance large deals for the purchase of weapons and combat equipment.”

According to Israeli investigations, those behind the arms smuggling on board the Karine A ship were the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, indicating that Shobaki met with Iranian envoys in Dubai in 2001, and they suggested military assistance to the Palestinian Authority, including building factories. Weapons and technology manufacturing combat equipment and military training. He added that “the weapons on board the ship were funded by Arafat personally, as he ordered the transfer of $125,000 to cover the ship’s fare.”

Al-Shobaki also spoke, according to the newspaper, about orders from Arafat to finance the local manufacture of combat equipment, including grenade launchers, grenades, and explosive devices, and financing the establishment of the “Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.”

It is worth noting that the occupation is still detaining the captain of the “Karine A” ship, Omar Akkawi, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison and entered his 22nd year in the occupation prisons last month. The Lebanese Salem Al Sankari, one of the sailors working on the ship, was released in the prisoner exchange process on January 29, 2004.

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