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Israel Frees 26 Palestinian Prisoners

  • RFE/RL

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (center) holds hands with Palestinian prisoners who were among the first group to be released from Israeli prisons in August.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (center) holds hands with Palestinian prisoners who were among the first group to be released from Israeli prisons in August.

Israel has released 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal to restart long-stalled Middle East peace talks.

After the detainees were freed early on October 30, there were scenes of celebration in the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians welcomed home the prisoners, some of whom had spent more than 20 years behind bars.

Speaking at a welcoming ceremony in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said the Palestinians would reject any attempt by the Israelis to "trade" the freeing of prisoners for the continued building of new Jewish settlements.

"Some nonnationalists spread rumors that we made this agreement instead of a settlements freeze. This is wrong, the settlements are void, void, and void," Abbas told hundreds of supporters.

In a statement, the Palestinian cabinet described the releases as a first step to a full eventual prisoner amnesty and statehood in the West Bank, including adjacent East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Musa Karan, one of the released prisoners, was sentenced to 28 years for killing a Jewish settler in 1992.

"Thank God, though I am released but I feel sad because there are still prisoners inside jails. I hope they will be released," Karan said.

The deal has triggered anger in Israel where many view the men as terrorists who committed brutal crimes against Israelis.

In all, 104 long-serving inmates will go free. A first group of 26 were released in August as part of understandings reached during shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Thousands of Palestinians have been held in Israeli prisons since Israel's capture of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, many jailed on charges ranging from throwing rocks to killing civilians in bombings, shootings, and other attacks.


Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa
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