Israel begins freeing 227 Palestinians

Dec. 15, 2008 at 9:23 AM
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- More than 200 freed Palestinian prisoners began exiting Israeli prisons Monday as a goodwill gesture on the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, officials said.

The release went forward one day after the Israeli government issued a statement confirming the Palestinians would be freed, with 209 of the prisoners to be transferred from Ofer Prison near Jerusalem to a checkpoint in the West Bank, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Eighteen other prisoners were to be transferred from Shikma Prison in the Negev desert to the Erez checkpoint on the Israel-Gaza border.

"We hope these releases will be seen as an important confidence-building measure designed to strengthen the trust and the confidence in the (peace) negotiations," Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told Haaretz.

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