26 Palestinian Prisoners Free Tuesday

Israel’s government has approved the release of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners, as part of a deal which will see peace talks resume next week.

A list of names chosen by a ministerial committee was published overnight.

The prisoners will be freed on Tuesday. The delay allows time for last-minute legal challenges by victims’ families.

The announcement came after Palestinian officials accused Israel of trying to sabotage the peace talks by approving nearly 1,200 new settlement homes.

An Israeli government spokesman dismissed the criticism, saying every peace initiative so far had proposed that the settlements in question become Israeli territory.

The Palestinians have previously agreed in principle to minor land swaps.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

On Sunday evening, a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that 26 prisoners would be released.

If one of those released will return to engage in hostile activity against Israel, he will be returned to complete his sentence”

It said they would be freed at least 48 hours after a list of their names was published by the Israeli Prison Service. The list was made public early on Monday, once the families of their victims had been informed.

Fourteen of the prisoners will be returned to the Gaza Strip and 12 to the West Bank. Eight were due to be released in the next three years, two of them in the next six months.

Earlier on Sunday, a small group of victims’ relatives protested against the releases outside the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem.

Yaakov Tobel, whose son Lior was killed in 1990, told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “For 23 years I haven’t been able to sleep trying to recreate what happened to my son in those moments.”

“The investigators told us he managed to run for 80m before his blood flow stopped. Let the ministers think about that before they sign off [on the release].”

The victims’ families can appeal to the Supreme Court, but it rarely intervenes in such cases.

Last month, the Israeli cabinet approved the release over the coming months a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners were signed as part of efforts to restart US-brokered direct peace talks after a three-year hiatus.


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