Israel Released 198 Palestinian Prisoners
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asserted on Monday that there would not be peace with Israel until all Palestinian prisoners were freed, speaking shortly after Israel released 199 jailed Palestinians.
Officials in the Palestinian Authority do not appear overly enthused by the Israeli cabinet's recent decision to release 199 prisoners, including detainees with 'blood on their hands', as a gesture to President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to data provided by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the IDF has arrested 1,751 Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of the year, including 500 who have been detained since last month's Mediterranean summit in Paris, during which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to free more prisoners.
As a further measure to show goodwill to Palestinians who respond to Israel's calls for peace, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to release 198 prisoners to the Palestinian Authority.
Regev said the prisoner release is "an important confidence-building measure" that Israel hopes will show the Palestinian people that Abbas' government "can, in fact, deliver much more for their own people than the extremists, than the terrorists ever can.
update: Prisoner release has been completed. 198 Palestinian prisoners (originally 199, however one was discovered to be pending criminal investigation) were released from the Ofer prison, and delivered to the Betunya checkpoint north of Jerusalem. Each released prisoner signed a written declaration to abstain from further terror activities.
The release of 198 Palestinian prisoners, including two convicted murderers, began Monday morning at Ofer Prison between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
The prisoners boarded a bus after signing a commitment to abstain from terror activity. They are set to be transported to Beitunya checkpoint north of Jerusalem and then on to a welcoming ceremony in Ramallah, attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA senior officials. They will then be reunited with their families in the West Bank.
According to last week's cabinet decision, 199 prisoners were due to be released as a goodwill gesture to Abbas. However, one of them was discovered to be under a pending criminal investigation and he was removed from the list.