Israel to release 500 Palestinians

Israel's cabinet on Sunday approved the release of 500 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture towards Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, government officials said.

    Freedom for 8000 Palestinian prisoners is an emotional issue

    The list of prisoners to be freed does not include those who Israeli officials say have participated in attacks on Israelis or those who still have two years to serve in prisons or who have not completed two-thirds of their sentences, said Aljazeera correspondent Walid al-Umari in Ram Allah.

    The first prisoners could be freed as early as Monday, al-Umari said.

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced last week that 900 prisoners would be freed, 500 in days and 400 in the next few weeks to bolster Abbas, who reached a ceasefire with the Israeli leader at a summit in Egypt five days ago.

    Release may be appealed

    Their names will first be published on a government website, giving the public an opportunity to appeal against the release of individual prisoners.

    Freedom for about 8000 Palestinians in Israeli jails is an emotive issue for Palestinians, who regard them as heroes of an uprising against Israeli occupation that began more than four years ago.

    "This is not an easy step, but this gesture possibly could help the Palestinian Authority solidify its rule and boost trust between the two sides," a government statement quoted Sharon as telling cabinet ministers.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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