US: Third Group of Palestinian Prisoners to Be Released a Day Late

Israel has informed the United States that the third group of veteran Palestinian prisoners will be released a day later than originally promised.

Spokeswoman for the US Department of State Jen Psaki said in a statement, “Although we had expected the release to occur on December 29, we have been informed that technical issues made it necessary to do the release a day later.”

The Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners Ziad Abu Ein told Ma’an that delaying the release one day will ruin the joy of prisoners and their families who await their release.

Abu Ein added that all the preparations to greet them were made for the 29th but will now have to be postponed to December 30.

The news comes a day after Israeli military radio announced that Israel planned to announce the construction of 1,400 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank to coincide with the prisoner release.

Israel agreed to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners who have been in custody since before the 1993 Oslo Accords as part of a plan to resume peace negotiations after talks were halted for more than two years.

The release of two dozen Palestinian prisoners on December 29 is the third part of that four-stage deal, and Israel has already released 52 prisoners in two previous rounds.

The last batch are expected to be released in March 2014.

Direct negotiations began in July between Israel and the Palestinians in a US-led attempt to restart the deadlocked peace process. Israel has announced plans to build thousands of homes in illegal settlements across the West Bank over the course of the talks, inhibiting US efforts.

The Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest against continued Israeli settlement construction in mid-November, dealing a major blow to negotiations between Israel and the PLO that had already been stalled.

Negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh told AFP at the time that they resigned in response to “increasing settlement building (by Israel) and the absence of any hope of achieving results,” following Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel would build 20,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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