Gaza’s residents used to gather in large numbers to welcome prisoners released by Israel . Hundreds would converge near Erez, an Israeli military checkpoint. Political messages and national songs would be blasted out from loudspeakers.
Once prisoners had made it through the checkpoint, they would be hoisted onto shoulders. The crowd would be eager to embrace them and celebrate how they had finally gained freedom – or at least the highly limited freedom of being released into a territory under a full blockade.
Soon after, a large convoy of cars – most with Palestinian flags flying from their windows – would drive to the home of the prisoners. A tent would be set up so that the released prisoners could greet wellwishers; it would remain in place for a week, sometimes longer.
COVID-19 has changed everything.
Because of the pandemic, Gaza’s health ministry has placed restrictions on people entering Gaza. Sami Hamid Habib, 35, was released from Israel’s Nafha prison on 30 March. Israel had jailed him for four years over his involvement with Hamas.
As soon as he arrived in Gaza, his temperature was checked by medical staff. He was then brought to the Blue Beach Resort in Gaza City and placed under quarantine.
The only contact that Habib has been able to have with his sons – Muhammad, 12, and Anas, 10 – during quarantine was by waving at them from the balcony of his hotel room.
Read More: Freedom under quarantine