Israeli ministers OK release of 200 Palestinians
Israel has agreed to release 200 Palestinian prisoners. The approval by a ministerial commission is the next step in the process of releasing the prisoners. The move is a festure of faith in Palestianian president Mahmoud Abbas.
An Israeli ministerial commission on Monday approved the release next week of 200 Palestinian prisoners, including at least two implicated in deadly attacks in Israel three decades ago.
"A ministerial commission which met on Monday approved the list of 200 Palestinian prisoners who are to be released as a goodwill gesture toward (Palestinian) president Mahmud Abbas," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev told AFP.
The cabinet had voted on Sunday to release the prisoners in a move aimed at bolstering the slow-moving US-backed peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Israelis can appeal against the freeing of individual prisoners before the actual release takes place on August 25.
Interior Security Minister Avi Dichter told public radio the criteria for establishing the list was "the same as in previous years except for two or three exceptional cases."
A senior government official said the list includes at least two veteran prisoners implicated in deadly attacks on Israelis in the 1970s. This is a rare exception to Israel's general policy of not freeing those with "blood on their hands."
Israeli media said that among those to be released is Said al-Attaba, 56, who has been serving a life sentence since 1977 for the death of an Israeli woman in an attack.
Also on the list is Mohammed Ibrahim Abu Ali, known as "Abu Ali Yatta," who has been behind bars since 1979 for killing an Israeli student.
While serving a life sentence, Abu ali Yatta, of Abbas's secular Fatah party, was elected to the Palestinian parliament in January 2006.