Poor Man’s Cocaine
The Hamas terrorists who led 10/7 attacks on Israel earlier this month were found to be under the influence of Captagon, a synthetic amphetamine-type stimulant, which has been manufactured secretly across several southern European countries, the Jerusalem Post and Channel 12 said in a report.
The drug is trafficked through Turkey to the consumer markets on the Arabian Peninsula, the report further revealed.
The report by both Israel-based news agencies claimed that Israeli security personnel recovered Captagon pills from the pockets of many terrorists who lost their lives on Israeli soil.
Captagon is also called the “cocaine for the poor”. The report highlighted that the drug is that kind of a stimulant that brings a sense of calmness and indifference in the user. It also keeps the user highly alert for extended periods and suppresses their appetite.
The reports say Hamas terrorists used these drugs when they slaughtered Israelis living along the Gaza border and attendees of a music festival concert on October 7.
The report also pointed to the use of the same drug by Islamic State terrorists in 2015 who used it to suppress fear prior to carrying out terrorist attacks. The Israeli news organisations claimed in their report that Lebanon and Syria now produce and distribute the drug on a large scale since ISIS influence has diminished.
The report also claimed that the drug is popular among people battling with addiction living in Gaza City. The drug belongs to the amphetamine family and was used to resolve issues related to attention disorders, narcolepsy and depression.
The report claimed that the drug costs a dollar or two per pill in poorer countries and up to 20 dollars per pill in wealthier nations.
The report claimed that Captagon manufacturing and selling is a source of revenue generation for Syria and is aided by Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
An investigation conducted by The New York Times in 2021 revealed that individuals tied to Syrian President Bashar Assad have set up a “thriving industry for the production of Captagon”. It also claimed that the industry associated with the production of the drug is overseen by Assad's brother.
At Least Seven Injured after Shooting in East Jerusalem
At least seven people have been injured after a shooting incident near the entrance of East Jerusalem. Police said that two suspects involved in the shooting were neutralized on the spot.
“A short while ago, a report was received regarding gunfire on the entrance road to Jerusalem (towards the central station) with several casualties. Both suspects involved in the shooting were neutralized on the spot. Large police forces are en route to the scene,” Israel Police wrote on X.
Two victims in critical condition are being treated at the scene, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday, describing it as a “terror attack.” Another five are taken to a hospital in serious, moderate and light condition, the report added.
The story is developing and more information is awaited in this regard.
We'd Like to See Pause Because
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday he would work to prolong a pause in the fighting in Gaza on an upcoming visit to Israel. “Looking at the next couple of days, we'll be focused on doing what we can to extend the pause so that we continue to get more hostages out and more humanitarian assistance in,” Blinken said after a NATO meeting in Brussels.
“We'd like to see the pause extended because of what it has enabled — first and foremost that is hostages being released, coming home, being reunited with their families.” The US top diplomat said he believed an extension was also in Israel's interest.
“They're also intensely focused on bringing their people home, so we're working on that,” he said. Blinken will pay his third wartime visit to the Middle East to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.
A current truce in Gaza is scheduled to expire early Thursday after a six-day pause in a conflict sparked by deadly Hamas attacks that prompted a devastating Israeli military offensive in the territory. On October 7 Hamas militants poured over the border into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240.
Israel's subsequent air and ground campaign in Gaza has killed nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, according to Hamas officials, and reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble.
Hamas is willing to extend a truce for four days and release more Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a source close to the militant group said Wednesday, as mediators sought a lasting halt to the conflict.
With 60 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinian prisoners already released and more set to walk free on Wednesday under the agreement, conflict mediator Qatar said negotiators were working for a “sustainable” ceasefire.
Hamas Kept 12-Yr-Old Boy in Solitary Confinement
Doctors and medical professionals treating the released hostages said they were kept in poor conditions and were given less nutritious food and were exposed to only two hours of daylight when Hamas terrorists held them captive.
Those released were instructed to refrain from disclosing details about the conditions they were kept in, lest those reports harm those still held captive in Gaza, according to a report by news agency AFP.
However, details have emerged from under a veil of secrecy, detailing how they were mistreated and the hardships they have endured.
Palestinian terrorists have released more than 50 Israeli women and children since a Qatar- and Egypt-mediated deal took effect on Friday, along with several other foreign nationals, among them at least 17 Thais.
But 160 other hostages, including a large number of Israeli males across all age groups, taken in the Hamas attacks on October 7 are still held in the Gaza Strip.
The report citing Ronit Zaidenstein, head of the medical team at Shamir Medical Center where 17 released Thai nationals were treated said they were fed “very unnutritious food” when they were held hostage.
Ronit said the people he treated “lost a significant amount of their body weight in such a short time –- 10% or more”.
Margarita Mashavi, a doctor at Wolfson Medical Centre, another major hospital treating the released hostages said they were kept several stories underground.
The hostages did not get much exposure to daylight and were only given two hours of exposure to daylight. “They didn't give them light. They gave it to them for only two hours,” the doctor said.
“(They were fed) rice, canned hummus and fava beans, and sometimes salted cheese with pita, but not more than that. No fruit, no vegetables, no eggs,” she further added.
The lack of proper food could be attributed to food supplies running short in Palestinian territories following the war and the UN's World Food Programme has warned of “widespread hunger”.
To pass time, when the hostages asked for pen or pencil to write they were also denied that. “Even when they asked for a pencil or pen to write in order to pass the time, the Hamas men didn't allow it because they were afraid they would transmit information in writing,” Margarita told Israeli news agency Ynet.
The hostages passed the time by talking to one another in the absence of television, radio or books to read.
12-year-old French-Israeli boy Eitan Yahalomi was kept in solitary confinement for 16 days, his grandmother Esther Yaeli said while speaking to news agency Walla.
“The days that he was alone were horrible. Now Eitan appears very withdrawn. The noises of the bombs hurt him, his ears hurt for a very long time,” Esther Yaeli was quoted as saying by Walla.
Roni Krivoy, a Russian-Israeli hostage, initially managed to flee Hamas captors after being kidnapped from the Supernova Music Festival but he was apprehended by Gazan civilians who handed him back to Hamas.
“(They were held in) horrible conditions and the medical consequences are pretty clear,” Hagar Mizrahi, the head of the Israeli health ministry's operations for returning hostages, told AFP.
Kidnapped 84-year-old Elma Avraham was also released after being held in captivity and sent to an intensive care unit. Her condition improved slightly on Tuesday.
“Some of the things that I've heard in recent days are heart-wrenching. They're simply outrageous in every way,” Hagar Mizrahi said, declining to elaborate, citing patient privacy concerns.
Gaza Is Falling Into ‘Absolute Chaos
A shaky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has allowed a surge of aid to reach Palestinians in Gaza, but humanitarian groups and civilians in the enclave say the convoys aren’t nearly enough to address the needs of the strip’s two million people.
Despite the pause in fighting, Palestinians in Gaza are burning door frames and piles of garbage to cook, sleeping crammed into school classrooms and strangers' homes, and scrambling onto trucks bringing aid from Egypt in a desperate grab for supplies, residents say.
The cease-fire has also allowed Gazans a chance to bury the dead and to take stock of entire neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble during seven weeks of Israeli bombing.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is adding to international pressure on Israel and Hamas to extend the initial four-day cease-fire to allow more aid to flow in and to stabilize the situation for civilians in Gaza. Egyptian and Qatari mediators said Monday that it had been extended another two days to Wednesday, with Hamas later confirming the extension that will allow more hostages to be released.
Meanwhile, 1.7 million people are internally displaced, most of them crammed into the southern half of the Gaza Strip, after Israel demanded that civilians leave the north days after its military offensive began last month. Some say they are losing hope.
“I don't want humanitarian aid, I want to go back home to Gaza City," said Balsam Hisham, 35, a mother of six who fled the north and is living in a tent in the south. “I wish I was killed in Gaza and didn't have to live this life here."
Israel and Hamas began a cease-fire on Nov. 24 as a part of an agreement under which the militant group is slowly releasing hostages it took during the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. In return, Israel has agreed to release about 150 Palestinian prisoners and allow an increase in deliveries of aid into Gaza.
More than 1,200 people were killed in the attacks, most of them civilians in towns neighboring Gaza. More than 14,800 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed in the resulting Israeli offensive in Gaza, according to authorities in the Hamas-run enclave. The number doesn't distinguish between civilians and combatants.
Under the cease-fire agreement, humanitarian groups are allowed to dispatch 200 trucks a day to the Gaza Strip, more than at any point during the war. The convoys include deliveries of fuel to power generators at facilities, including hospitals. The Gaza Strip has had no regular supply of electricity since its sole power plant shut down on Oct. 11.
Israel, which declared what it called a “complete siege" of the Gaza Strip on Oct. 9, has said it is facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
“We are currently focusing on humanitarian aid specifically for the wintertime, like tents, blankets and mattresses," Moshe Tetro, head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration for the Israeli military, said in a video tweeted on Sunday.
The number of trucks is still less than half the daily average that entered Gaza before the war. Among the problems compounding the crisis in Gaza is that the war has brought the economy grinding to a halt. Much of Gaza's food is brought in by truck from Israel and Egypt, with all shipments through crossings from Israel cut off by the Israeli government in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attacks.
The United Nations and other organizations say they are being forced to step in for the private sector, which has collapsed because of the war and blockade imposed by Israel. That has raised the challenge of sustaining the Gazan population during what is expected to be several more months of war.
“If there are no commercial goods in the stores, what we're doing effectively is actively turning an entire population into a population that exclusively relies on food aid, and that is so wrong in terms of managing Gaza," said Tamara Alrifai, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which runs the largest aid operation in Gaza.
Israel has said it plans to resume its military offensive in Gaza whenever the cease-fire ends. Israeli officials say that the military has largely routed the group in the north and that the next phase of the war will focus on uprooting Hamas from southern Gaza. Even during the initial four days of the cease-fire, Gazans say that the increase in deliveries of aid hasn't made a difference in their lives.
In Gaza City, which has been encircled by the Israeli military for weeks, Palestinians leapt onto aid trucks, pushing and shoving one another as a convoy arrived on Sunday, with residents scuffling over sacks of flour and blankets, witnesses said.
The situation in the northern Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, is especially desperate. Israel urged more than one million people living in northern Gaza to leave the area to give the Israeli military a freer hand to operate. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, are estimated to have stayed, aid groups say.
Many stayed behind with sick, wounded or elderly relatives who were unable to move. Others chose to stay out of fear that they wouldn't be allowed back into their homes. Israel has told Palestinians who fled to the south not to return to the north for now, with Israeli forces using gunfire to disperse people who tried to enter the north over the weekend. The Israeli military said it warned people not to approach the area for their own safety.
“We're dealing with a completely new reality in Gaza," said Bushra Khalidi, a policy lead at Oxfam, an antipoverty charity. “It's been a glimpse into the future of what Gaza will be like after the war, and it's absolute chaos. There's no rule of law. There's no police. People are fending for themselves."
In southern Gaza, food and other essentials are more readily available, but an increasing number of Palestinians there say they can't afford the soaring prices of essentials such as flour and vegetables. Palestinians in the area say they are waiting hours, sometimes staying in line overnight, to obtain essentials such as bread and water. A single line for cooking gas in the southern city of Khan Younis stretched for more than a mile, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Everything is expensive and we don't have money. We have not gotten any humanitarian aid," said Suha Mahmoud, 45, who is staying in a university in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis after having fled when Israeli tanks approached her home near the seaport in Gaza City.
Like many other Palestinians, Mahmoud left her home carrying only a few possessions. She went to a local shop to buy a set of warm clothes for her 7-year-old daughter only to find that it would cost 50 Israeli shekels, or $13 dollars.
“We don't know what's going to happen after this pause, if we will ever go back home, if we will get any aid. We are heading into the unknown," she said.
Source: Live Mint
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will pay his third wartime visit to West Asia this week and meet Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.
The US officials gave only a few details about the agenda of the meetings but a report by AFP citing senior American officials said the US secretary of state will discuss the principles he laid out for “future of Gaza and the need to establish an independent Palestinian state”.
“The secretary will stress the need to sustain the increased flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, secure the release of all hostages and improve protection to civilians in Gaza. (He will discuss) the principles he laid out for the future of Gaza and the need to establish an independent Palestinian state,” the official told the news agency.
The US is also pressuring Israel to work with the Palestinian Authority and rein in settlers who have launched attacks against Palestinian villagers in the West Bank since October 7.
Netanyahu is a long-time critic of Abbas and does not prefer the two-state solution.
The US and Biden have backed Israel following the Hamas-led October 7 attacks which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel's deadliest-ever attack.
But they have also expressed concern regarding the Israeli retaliation's toll on civilians, which have galvanised public opinion in much of the world. The bombing and ground campaign has left almost 15,000 people dead, mostly Palestinian civilians, according to Gaza's Hamas government.
US President Joe Biden on Monday (local time) said he and his country will keep working towards the two-state solution and believes that it can bring lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians as Israel and Hamas extended their truce by 48 hours.
“A two-state solution is the only way to guarantee the long-term security of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people. To make sure Israelis and Palestinians alike live in equal measure of freedom and dignity, we will not give up on working towards that goal,” Biden said.
Both US President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier said that following the war Gaza should be unified with the Israeli-occupied West Bank under a “revitalised” Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas' PA, also known as Fatah, controls large parts of the West Bank in close coordination with Israel but Palestinians call them “collaborators”.
A report by the New York Times said that only a small section of people in the West Bank as well as Israel feel the authority is capable of governing a post-conflict Gaza. The West Bank Palestinians view Fatah as a subcontractor to the Israeli government which controls almost every aspect of life in the West Bank.
The report also pointed out that without the security provided by the Israeli Army the Fatah may struggle to even survive in the West Bank. It also said that Palestinians consider the Fatah authoritarian, corrupt and undemocratic administration.
The New York Times report said that if elections were held imminently, it is probable, based on what experts and polls suggest, that Hamas would win again.
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An estimated 50,000 demonstrators against antisemitism marched in London on Sunday to protest against a rise in hate crimes against Jews since the attack by Hamas militants on Israel in October and Israel's subsequent bombardment of Gaza.
Protestors carried placards bearing the messages “Shoulder to shoulder with British Jews” and “Zero tolerance for antisemites.” Others showed the faces of Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militant group Hamas. Some people sang in Hebrew while others chanted “Bring them home” in reference to the hostages. “I'm here to support my Jewish community and I think we must stand up for ourselves, otherwise if we won't stand for ourselves who will, you know?” Avraham El Hay, a student, said.
London's Metropolitan Police received reports of 554 antisemitic offences between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, up from 44 a year earlier, a more than 10-fold increase. Reports of Islamophobic offences almost tripled to 220 in the same period. “I want this march to achieve for people to understand there is no place for racism in this country,” Kate Worth, a travel agent, said. “We are all equal. And it's absolutely unacceptable what is happening right now for Jewish people.”
Police arrested a far-right activist, Tommy Robinson, at the start of Sunday's march after he refused to leave the area at the request of police officers. Organisers of the demonstration had asked Robinson not to attend because of the distress his presence was likely to cause.
Police also arrested a man who they said was heard to make antisemitic comments. Sunday's march took place a day after a latest demonstration in the British capital by pro-Palestinian protestors calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Police estimated 45,000 people marched in the demonstration on Saturday while it said 50,000 took part in Sunday's protest.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism, which focuses on the concerns of Jewish people in Britain, said the gathering was the biggest of its kind since the so-called Battle of Cable Street in 1936 when British fascists clashed with opponents in an area of east London where many Jews lived at the time.
We Continue Till Victory
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday visited Gaza for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began. He is the first prime minister of Israel in two decades to visit the Gaza Strip.
“We continue until the end — until victory,” footage posted online by his office showed him saying, on his first such trip since the war began October 7.
“Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the power, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all the war's goals, and we will,” he further added.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 to its internationally recognized border with the enclave. It destroyed its 21 settlements there and handed the control of the coastal enclave to the Palestinian Authority (PA) but in 2007 the PA's Fatah Party was ousted from the enclave in a bloody coup.
The Israeli Prime Minister's visit to Gaza comes amid a four-day pause in the Gaza war.
Hamas took about 240 captives from southern Israel in an unprecedented October 7 terrorist attack and killed around 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas and embarked on an aerial bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza and killed over 15,000 people, as claimed by Hamas.
The ceasefire agreement which spans for four days and is set to expire Monday midnight saw the release of 42 hostages. Hamas is expected to free a total of 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel over the course of a four-day pause brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.
Hamas on Sunday said that the commander of its northern brigade and four other senior leaders were killed during Israel's offensive against the terrorist group. The Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said Ahmed al-Ghandour was a member of its military council and said that three others, including Ayman Siyyam, head of its rocket division, were killed. The West Bank branch of Hamas also confirmed that another of its leader died.
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Will Gaza Truce Be Extended
Hamas wants to extend the pause in the ongoing war between the terrorist group and Israel, news agency AFP reported citing people familiar with the developments.
“Hamas informed the mediators that the resistance movements were willing to extend the current truce by two to four days,” the person mentioned above told AFP.
The person also said that Hamas believes it is possible to ensure the release of at least 20 to 40 Israeli hostages if the ceasefire deal is extended. “The resistance believes it is possible to ensure the release of 20 to 40 Israeli prisoners”in that time,” the person further added.
Under the truce deal 50 hostages held by the terrorist are to be freed over four days in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners. There is a built-in mechanism in the deal that extends the ceasefire if Hamas releases at least 10 Israeli captives each day.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is yet to show any indication that the offensive will halt anytime soon. He visited Gaza for the first time since the war began on October 7 and also became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit the blockaded coastal enclave since 2005.
“We continue until the end — until victory,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Gaza on Sunday as he met Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers stationed there. Dressed in green military fatigues, he vowed to free all the hostages and “eliminate Hamas”.
At least 58 hostages have been released from Gaza in the three days of the ceasefire, including citizens from Thailand, the Philippines and Russia. Israeli authorities have released 117 Palestinian women and children who were languishing in Israeli prisons.
The US has backed the plan of extending the ceasefire. Biden expressed a similar hope “so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those in need in Gaza”.
At least 120 aid trucks have entered Gaza through the Rafah border on Sunday, the Egyptian government told news agency CNN. The delivery of aid to the blockaded coastal enclave is one the crucial factors in sustaining the ceasefire and hostage-for-prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.
On October 7, Hamas terrorists broke through Gaza's militarised border with Israel in the country's deadliest attack and killed about 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and took around 240 people hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
In response, Israel launched a military campaign to destroy Hamas, killing nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians and including thousands of children, according to Gaza's Hamas government.
Israel Reminds Ireland’s Indian-Origin PM of IDF's Role after Hamas Frees 9-Yr-Old Irish-Israeli Girl Updated 8 minutes ago
When nine-year-old Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand was released by Hamas terrorists on Saturday, Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy began a war of words on social media site X with the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Emily was among the latest group of hostages released by Hamas terrorists on Saturday. “This is a day of enormous joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family. An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered,” Varadkar said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Israel government spokesperson Eylon Levy reacted to the post by writing: “Emily Hand wasn't “lost”. She was brutally abducted by the death squads that massacred her neighbours. She wasn't “found”. Hamas knew where she was all along and cynically held her as a hostage. And Hamas didn't answer your prayers. It answered Israel's military pressure,” Levy said.
Levy and the Israeli government have been unhappy with Ireland regarding its response to the October 7 attacks.
Israel and Ireland relations have been frustrated because of Ireland's full support of Palestine and Palestinian non-violent political movements.
The Irish PM Varadkar also accused Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission's president, of “lacking balance” and leaning towards Israel.
Ireland was the first EU state to endorse Palestinian statehood – in 1980. The Irish diplomat Niall Holohan who was based in Ramallah from 2002-2006 told the Guardian that Ireland has a history of siding with the ‘underdogs', referring to Palestinians.
“We feel we have been victimised over the centuries. It's part of our psyche – underneath it all we side with the underdog,” Holohan was quoted as saying.
Levy also referred to Irish support for the Palestinian cause in his post. “Without Israel's military pressure on Hamas, which Ireland shamefully called “something approaching revenge,” little Emily Hand would still be a hostage of Hamas. It's not that Hamas “was blind, but now it sees” (if the above statement is an allusion to Amazing Grace),” Levy said.
Amazing Grace is a hymn written in the late 1700s by John Newton.
Hamas on Saturday released a second group of Israeli and foreign civilians it had been holding hostage in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
Israeli authorities said 13 Israelis and four Thai citizens had returned to Israel.
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Prison authorities in Israel announced early Sunday that they had released 39 Palestinian detainees, after Hamas freed 13 hostages under an agreement that came into force on Friday.
The freed Palestinian prisoners are all women and people under the age of 19, while the hostages released by Hamas are all women and children.
The agreement is supposed to last four days and allow the release of 50 Israelis and 150 Palestinians.
The exchange, which took place on Saturday, followed an initial swap on Friday when Hamas released 13 Israelis, all women and children, while Israel freed 39 Palestinian detainees, also all women and children.
Celebrations in East Jerusalem welcoming the released Palestinian prisoners were muted, amid heavy Israeli police presence.
The most prominent Palestinian released is Israa Jaabis, 37, who was convicted of detonating a gas cylinder in her car at a checkpoint in 2015, wounding a police officer. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Armed Israeli security forces stood by her house as she returned.
Jaabis' photo, showing her withered fingers and partially burnt face, is regularly used in demonstrations to illustrate the suffering of Palestinian prisoners.
“I'm ashamed to talk about rejoicing when the whole of Palestine is wounded”, Jaabis told journalists in her living room, alongside her 13-year-old son.
“They must release everyone,” she said.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, crowds celebrated and chanted slogans praising Hamas for its role in the agreement.
The Islamist movement controls parts of the West Bank, rivalling Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian Prisoners' Club advocacy group reported that 17 Palestinians had been arrested the same day the 39 were released.