Israel delays prisoner release

Palestinian prisoners to be freed are taken off buses and returned to jail cells.

    Officials say the release could be delayed by
    at least two hours [Reuters]

    The Israeli cabinet approved the release a week ago. Sources in the prison service said the delay was "ordered by the prime minister's office".
     
    Fatah prisoners
     
    The majority of the 87 men on the release roster are members of Abbas's Fatah faction,  with the rest coming from the smaller Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) groups.
     
    Israel's Palestinian prisoners



    9,850 Palestinians remain in Israeli jails.

    105 are women.

    359 are children.

    40 Palestinian Legislative Council members are also under arrest.

    Marwan Barghouti, a member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, is one of the most prominent detainees and is seen as a potential future Palestinian leader.

    Sources: Palestinian Ministry for Prisoner Affairs (July 2006), B'Tselem (Oct 2006)

    The freeing of prisoners is emotionally charged for Palestinians, who see their nearly 11,000 brethren held in Israeli jails as fighters for freedom from Israeli occupation.
     
    Many Israelis say such amnesties encourage violence by Palestinian fighters.
     
    One prisoner to be released said on Monday: "I hope there will be peace and quiet."

    Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said only prisoners "without blood on their hands" and willing to sign a document renouncing violence would be freed.
     
    Olmert and Abbas are to meet on Wednesday to discuss their agendas for a US-sponsored conference on Palestinian statehood.
     

    The talks will host Olmert and Abbas alongside other Arab leaders, but exclude Hamas.

     

    Palestinians are divided on whether the conference will do anything to bring them closer to statehood.

     

    Twenty-nine of the 87 prisoners expected to be released come from Gaza and the others from the West Bank.

     

    Major General Eli Gabison, head of the prison service in southern Israel, said all detainees hailing from Gaza were asked whether they wanted to return to the territory and all said yes.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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