Tags: israel | palestinian | prisoners | peace

Israel Names Palestinian Prisoners to be Released

By    |   Sunday, 29 December 2013 07:15 AM EST

JERUSALEM — Israel has announced the names of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners it will release this week.

Israel released the list late Saturday. All were convicted in connection to the killing of Israelis.

The Israeli government said the crimes were committed prior to the beginning of the initial Israeli-Palestinians peace talks in 1993. All have served sentences of between 19 and 28 years.

Under heavy pressure from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the sides resumed peace talks in July. As a precondition, the Palestinians were forced to drop a demand for a halt in settlement construction. In exchange, Israel agreed to release 104 of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners it holds. This week's release will be the third of four planned phases.

Relatives of the victims have been protesting against the release.

Kerry is scheduled to travel to the Middle East on Jan. 1 in an effort to advance the talks, and possibly to achieve an agreement that would enable the negotiations to extend beyond their current April 29 deadline.
“Right now, the effort is to reach a framework agreement that will guide the negotiations in the direction of a final agreement that will end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said today in an interview on Israeli Army Radio. “We discern significant advancement in recent weeks, and the secretary really wants to take advantage of this visit to make progress.”
Shapiro refuted reports in local media linking further releases and Israeli concessions in peacemaking to the possible freeing by the U.S. of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew imprisoned since 1985 for passing classified intelligence to Israel.
“In my view there is no direct connection between the Pollard issue and the negotiations, or the freeing of Palestinian prisoners,” Shapiro said.
The talks have been strained by reports that Israel will this week announce further construction in West Bank settlements, as it did concurrently with the two previous releases of Palestinian prisoners. While the U.S. has condemned such building and Palestinians say it threatens future negotiations, Shapiro said he doesn’t believe it will prove fatal to the peace process.
“We don’t expect any blow-up in the negotiations,” Shapiro said. “The two sides are keeping their commitments.”

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Israel has announced the names of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners it will release this week.
Sunday, 29 December 2013 07:15 AM
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