Israel to release Palestinian prisoners in goodwill gesture

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The Independent Online

Israel will release Palestinian prisoners next week as a goodwill gesture for a Muslim feast day, Palestinian and Israeli officials said Wednesday, although they apparently disagreed over the political make-up of the release.

Israel will release Palestinian prisoners next week as a goodwill gesture for a Muslim feast day, Palestinian and Israeli officials said Wednesday, although they apparently disagreed over the political make-up of the release.

The 50 prisoners will be released in three stages beginning on Sunday next week, Prisons Authority spokeswoman Levana Levy-Shay said, adding that they will comprise a mix of Palestinians jailed for anti-Israel offenses and others jailed for common crimes.

Kadura Faris, a Palestinian official who attended a meeting Wednesday at which Israeli officials presented the list, said only 16 prisoners jailed for anti-Israel acts would be released, including five residents of Jerusalem. Levy-Shay did not say whether or not Jerusalem residents would be included.

An Israeli decision in 1998 to release common criminals - mostly car thieves - as part of a negotiated prisoner release led to Palestinian riots and nearly scuttled the peace process. Israel has so far refused to release Jerusalem residents as part of negotiated releases, as it would implictly concede a Palestinian claim to the disputed city.ha holiday, said Police Ministry spokesman Moshe Debi. The four-day festival begins Thursday.

Some of those who will be released have lightly injured Israelis in attacks but none are members of the Islamic militant group Hamas, Debi said. Hamas has carried out several deadly attacks against Israel and opposes the peace process.

Under recent peace agreements, Israel has released almost 400 Palestinian prisoners, but about 1,650 remain in Israeli jails. Negotiators will meet after the Muslim holiday to discuss the next scheduled release according to recent interim agreements, said the Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, Hisham Abdel Razek.

The Palestinians are demanding that the next release include at least 150 detainees, Abdel Razek said.

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