Israel to free 26 Palestinian militants
Ministerial committee headed by Binyamin Netanyahu votes for release of second batch of total of 104 prisoners
An Israeli ministerial committee headed by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu yesterday voted for the release of 26 veteran Palestinian militants. Photograph: Reuters/Lior Mizrahi
Israel is due to set free 26 veteran Palestinian militants tomorrow despite bitter opposition from some right-wing ministers.
A ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voted for the release yesterday, the second batch of a total of 104 prisoners Israel committed to free as part of a deal under which the Palestinians agreed to resume direct peace talks in the summer.
A senior Palestinian official confirmed almost all the prisoners to be released this week were convicted of murder, aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter out of nationalistic motives.
“The list will include prisoners defined in Israel as ‘prisoners with blood on their hands’ but the list will contain only Palestinian prisoners who are residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and not Israeli Arabs or residents of east Jerusalem.” The decision was criticised by right-wing coalition parties and by politicians from within Mr Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party.
Knesset member Ayelet Shaked from the right-wing Jewish Home said the release will encourage Palestinian violence in the West Bank.
“We told the prime minister that we are against release of terrorists. It’s immoral. No other country in the world does it,” she said, “We release terrorists as a gesture to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and he promotes a boycott against us?”
Israeli media reported that in an attempt to placate the right-wing, Mr Netanyahu will approve construction of another 1,700 homes for settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, most in the ultra-Orthodox east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo.
However, the Jewish Home criticised such linkage as “manipulative and morally wrong.”
An Israeli official said the building will be confined to the main settlement blocs and both the Americans and the Palestinians were made aware of Israel’s aim to expand construction ahead of talks resumption.
Settlement deal denied
Senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo denied any deal had been struck with Israel to allow settlement expansion.
“There haven’t been and there won’t be such understandings and if Mahmoud Abbas knew that Israel would connect these two things, we would not have returned to the negotiating table.” Tonight Israelis opposed to the release plan to form a human chain around the Ofer prison.