The second longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, Maher Younis, has been released after serving four decades in Israeli prisons.

Maher, 65, was released from Eshel prison near Beer Sabe’ (Beer Sheva) in southern Israel just before 7am (04:00 GMT) on Thursday.

He was arrested in 1983 and convicted alongside his cousin, Karim Younis, in Israeli courts of killing an Israeli soldier in Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in 1980.

Karim, released two weeks ago, was the longest serving Palestinian prisoner, having been arrested earlier than Maher.

The cousins are from the Palestinian village of Ara in Israel, where large crowds of relatives and friends greeted Maher on Thursday.

Upon his release, Maher visited the grave of his father, who died in 2008. His mother showered him with petals when he arrived at his home, where he was arrested at 25.

Maher and Karim were originally sentenced to death by hanging. Their sentence was changed to life in prison, which was then commuted to 40 years in 2011.