Official sources in the Hamas party told PNN Friday that Prime Minister
Haniyya's visit to Damascus may result in the release of Palestinian
political prisoners from Syrian prisons.

During two days in the capital, talks were described as “sensitive,” and Ismail Haniyya was able to obtain a promise from the Syrian leadership. Palestinians should be released within a short time frame, as soon as names and locations can be inventoried and processed.

Sources in the Prime Minister's office did not reveal the exact number of detainees, but human rights sources say that there are at least one thousand. Among them are Palestinians who have spent decades in Syrian prisons, but no one was certain what had happened to them. Their whereabouts remained unaccounted for according to relatives, as was the case of the Nablus man who reappeared two days ago.

For 37 years Ahmed Mahmoud Shayeb of Nablus had been gone, only to reemerge after decades spent in a Syrian prison. Sources indicate that there are many more soon to be like him.

The Hamas party has already achieved what no other has been able to; obtain a promise. No other Palestinian politician has been able to do what Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya accomplished over the last two days. Hundreds of families are talking about this “sensitive and painful” issue and the “longstanding dream of closure.” Hundreds of Palestinians have been released from Syrian prisons in the past, including senior officials in the Palestinian Authority and women, one of whom was held for 17 years and has now returned home to Jerusalem. But never has a promise been made to release all of them.

Prime Minister Haniya began his Damascus meetings two days ago as part of his tour of the Middle East. The Prime Minister met with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his deputy Farouk Al Shara, among many others in the Syrian leadership.

Hamas is roundly describing the visit as successful, having achieved all of its goals, and the party is praising the Syrian leadership for its continued  support of the Palestinian cause.