Last updated: 21 July, 2012

Hamas releases Gaza prisoners for Ramadan

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas ruling Gaza said on Saturday it would free more than 150 prisoners “as a gift” for the holy month of Ramadan.

The Hamas government “was releasing 159 inmates … on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan and as a gift” from its head, Ismail Haniya, a statement quoted interior ministry official Islam Shahwan as saying.

In a speech at a prison west of Gaza City, Shahwan said the inmates are criminal prisoners, implying they are not political prisoners.

Hamas, which forcibly took over the coastal territory in 2007 from Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas, makes such a gesture each Ramadan.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and strive to be more pious and charitable. The month begins with the sighting of the new moon, which varies from country to country.

In Gaza, Ramadan began on Friday.