Israeli occupation key to exodus
BEIT JALA – The Israeli occupation of Palestine is the main factor behind the exodus of Palestinian Christians from the region, according to a new study from a local university. The research carried out by Dar al-kalima University in the occupied West Ba
Hundreds freed in prisoner swap
HORLIVKA – Ukraine and pro-russian separatist rebels conducted the largest exchange of prisoners since conflict broke out in 2014, sending hundreds of captives home to their families yesterday ahead of New Year and Orthodox Christmas.
More than 10 000 people have been killed in the conflict and casualties are still reported almost daily despite a ceasefire that froze the frontlines in place since 2015.
“My son rang,” the mother of a Ukrainian prisoner Oleksandr Oliynyk told the Ukrainian news channel 112.
“I have not heard his voice for three-and-a-half years, just letters. He said: ‘Mum, I’m already here.’ You cannot imagine what it means for a mother, to not see your child for three-and-a-half years, since August 2014.”
According to the terms of the deal, Kiev was meant to hand over 306 prisoners to the rebels and receive 74 prisoners in return. A Reuters photographer at the scene saw the Ukrainian prisoners being loaded onto buses in the town of Horlivka and taken to territory controlled by the Ukrainian government.
“All 74 Ukrainian hostages are already at home, on the territory controlled by our army,” Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko wrote on social media.
The exact number of prisoners exchanged is uncertain. Viktor Medvedchuk, Ukraine’s representative to ongoing peace talks, said some captives held by Ukraine refused to return to rebel-held areas, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
More prisoners are expected to change hands in 2018, TASS cited Medvedchuk as saying. The Ukrainian state security service said 103 prisoners remained in separatist hands.
There was no immediate comment from the authorities in Moscow. (Reuters) (Al Jazeera)