Israel to Free Prisoners as Gesture to Abbas

The Israeli cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly approved the release of some 200 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian government.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev called the move a "confidence-building measure" towards Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying "we hope the release will help strengthen the peace process."

A senior government official told AFP that the list, which will be considered for final approval by a ministerial committee on Monday, includes two veteran prisoners implicated in deadly attacks on Israelis in the 1970s.

The two are an exception to Israel’s general long-standing refusal to release those with "blood on their hands," but the official said the security establishment "believes the risk of the release is very low."

Israel had first announced the move on August 6 following a face-to-face meeting between Olmert and Abbas, the latest in a series of discussions held since they re-launched peace talks at a U.S.-hosted conference in November.

Once the ministerial committee approves the decision, Israelis will have several days to appeal against the release of individual prisoners before the actual release takes place on August 25.

There are currently more than 11,000 Palestinians jailed in Israel, including at least 85 women and children, and 11 seriously ill people, according to the Palestinian Authority.

(Agencies via

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