Israeli prisoner release gets go-ahead

Aug. 24, 2008 at 12:57 PM
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TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Israeli government officials say they will release 199 Palestinian prisoners Monday, including two convicted of murdering Israelis.

The controversial release was approved by the Israeli Cabinet last week and will come the same day U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives for talks on the regional peace process, Haaretz news service reported Sunday.

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin recently said the deal "creates pressure on Hamas and is likely to accelerate the negotiations over Gilad Shalit," referring to an Israeli soldier being held by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Cabinet reportedly held three separate votes on the prisoner issue. The release of the two prisoners with "blood on their hands" was affirmed by all except Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. All ministers but Mofaz backed releasing the other 197, including 26 people sentenced to terms of 10 to 16 years for attempted murder.

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