NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–19 December 2011. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcomed the release of 55 Palestinian child detainees by Israel yesterday as part of a prisoner swap deal struck two months ago, and said it looked forward to more advancements on this issue.
“We welcome this release of children by the Israeli authorities and we look forward to further progress on the issue of child detainees,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Special Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory.
This is the second round of prisoner releases, following the first exchange on 18 October, when Hamas released the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive since June 2006, and Israel released 477 Palestinian prisoners – many of whom had been imprisoned for involvement in attacks on Israelis.
As part of the deal, Israel also agreed to release 550 prisoners within the following two months of the first exchange.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the prisoner exchange a “humanitarian breakthrough” and said he hoped it would have a far-reaching and positive impact on the stalled Middle East peace process.
According to a news release issued by the agency, a total of 161 Palestinians under the age of 18 had been detained by Israeli military authorities as of 1 December. The 55 children who were released are reported to be between the ages of 14 and 17.