OFER PRISON: Eleven veteran Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel to the West Bank early on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent at a border crossing said.
He said the men were driven out of Israel's Ofer prison, adjacent to the Beitunia West Bank crossing in a convoy of four Palestinian Authority vehicles escorted by police.
A small crowd of well-wishers cheered as they entered Palestinian territory.
"It's the most important day of our lives, we are very happy," said 52-year-old Mahmud Salah who was waiting at Beitunia for a glimpse of his brother Moqdad who has served 21 years of a life sentence.
"Even when they announced the names, we did not really believe we would see him with us again," he said.
Another 15 prisoners, from Gaza, were still waiting on the Israeli side of the Erez border crossing, waiting to enter the strip.
On the Palestinian side, more than 2,000 relatives and supporters set up a welcome tent and hung up flags, AFP correspondents said.
The 26 prisoners are the first batch of some 104 long-term detainees who are to be freed in stages as part of a US-brokered deal which brought Israel and Pales
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