Thursday, August 7, 2008

Israel to free 150 prisoners to boost Abbas in peace talks

This is from AFP.
There are still over 11000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Rather surprisingly Abbas even asked for the release of some prisoners who are not part of Fatah. The article does not say if any Hamas prisoners were released. It is unlikely. Hamas prisoners could be a bargaining chip in obtaining the release of an Israeli captured by Hamas.


Israel to free 150 prisoners to boost Abbas in peace talks
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel will release more than 150 Palestinian prisoners later this month as a goodwill gesture to president Mahmud Abbas as part of US-backed peace talks, officials said on Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said the release came in response to a request by Abbas.
"We hope this gesture will help the peace process," he told reporters after the latest meeting between the two leaders, referring to US-backed talks formally relaunched at an international conference in November.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the meeting was "successful" and that Israel had agreed to release more than 150 Palestinian prisoners.
"We agreed with the Israelis there will be a new batch of prisoners released on the 25th of August," Erakat told reporters after the meeting.
Erakat declined to give names but said Abbas urged Israel to release several prominent and long-serving prisoners, including Marwan Barghuti, a popular leader in Abbas's Fatah party seen as a leading contender to succeed the Palestinian president.
Barghuti, a West Bank leader considered to have masterminded the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, was jailed in 2004 and is serving five life sentences for his role in deadly attacks.
Abbas also wants Israel to release prominent leaders from other factions, including parliament speaker Aziz Dweik from the Islamist Hamas movement, and Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Erakat said.
There are currently more than 11,000 Palestinians jailed in Israel, including at least 85 women and children, and 11 seriously ill people.

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