Israel set to release Palestinians under deal

Release of second group of prisoners in Israeli-Palestinian swap deal due to take place next week.

    The first half of the prisoner swap took place in October with 477 Palestinians released from Israeli jails [EPA]

    Israel has published a list of 550 Palestinian prisoners expected to be freed in the coming days, the second half of a swap deal which brought about the release of an Israeli soldier two months ago.

    Israel's Prisons Service posted on its website the list of prisoners whose jail terms are to be cut, and a spokeswoman said on Thursday that they would be assembled in two jails prior to release on Sunday. 

    Unlike the group of 477 prisoners freed in October at the same time as the soldier, there are no senior fighters on the list, Palestinian sources said, with the inmates to be released on the evening of December 18.

    On the list is French-Palestinian national Salah Hamuri, who was convicted of trying to assassinate a Jewish religious leader and had been due to complete his seven-year sentence in March.

    The earlier group had included hundreds of Palestinians who were serving life for deadly attacks, with the names chosen by the Hamas movement which rules Gaza and which signed the swap deal with Israel.

    "This is a national achievement that we should be proud of," said Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, in a televised address from Damascus, Syria, in the lead-up to the first swap.

    No Hamas members

    The latest group of 544 men and six women has been selected by Israel and does not include any members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

    "The names were chosen by Israel alone," an Israeli official told AFP, adding priority was given to members of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

    The Israel Prisons Service said the public had 48 hours in which to file any objections and provided the number of a justice ministry hotline set up for the purpose.

    It said 40 of those to be freed would be returned to their homes in the Gaza Strip, two to Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, two to Jordan and the remainder to the occupied West Bank.

    Under the October deal, Israel agreed to free a total of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of the Israeli soldier who had been held by Hamas in Gaza for more than five years.

    It was the first time in 26 years that a captured soldier had been returned to Israel alive.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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