In an interview with Aljazeera, Ismail Hania, a front-ranking leader of the Hamas, dubbed the Israeli move as  “deception” and said it was meant to cripple the resistance.

Insisting that all Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel jails  be released immediately, Hania said the release of a few hundred fell way short of the rightful demands.

“The ambition of Hamas is part of the Palestinian ambition. We have not only called for freeing Hamas prisoners, but all Palestinian prisoners,” he said.

An estimated 6000 Palestinians are supposed to be languishing in Israeli prisons.  Of them, 2500 belong to the Hamas.

Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi, another key leader of the Hamas, said Israel’s refusal to free long-serving prisoners could have far-reaching consequences.

“It would affect the truce very hard,” he said, underlining the fragility of the three-month suspension of anti-Israeli attacks announced by the Palestinian resistance groups.

The resistance groups have conditioned their ceasefire on the release of all detainees.

"The ambition of Hamas is part of the Palestinian ambition. We have not only called for freeing Hamas prisoners"

Ismail Hania,
a front-ranking Hamas leader

Of the prisoners Israel released during the day, 159 had not faced  trial.  Another  30 were due to complete their sentences this month any way.

Israel says it would not release any Palestinians “with blood on their hands.”

BUSH CRITICISM

Israel’s planned security barrier through the West Bank came in for fresh criticism from US President George Bush on Wednesday.

I made it clear I thought the fence was a problem, and so we are talking with them and we will continue to work on this issue, as well as other issues. I do believe we are making progress,” he told reporters.

"We're talking to Israel about all aspects of the fence,"  he said.

Bush however did not elaborate to what extent he would go in pressurizing Israel to give up on the fence, dubbed by many as the ‘apartheid-fence.”

Israel wants the barrier, in parts a concrete wall and in others metal fencing, to keep out Palestinians from launching attacks.

Palestinians liken it as the new Berlin Wall, that grabs Palestinian territory and traps thousands in their own land.