Israel approves third Palestinian prisoner release

Dec. 29, 2013 at 7:32 AM
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Israel approved the release of the third round of 26 Palestinian prisoners agreed upon in the framework of peace talks with the Palestinians, officials said.

Late Saturday night, a panel of Israeli Cabinet ministers approved the list of prisoners to be released, allowing 48 hours for Israelis who oppose the move to file court appeals, Israel Radio and other Israeli media reported.

A statement released by the prime minister's office said all those scheduled to be freed were convicted of crimes committed prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords.

In conjunction with the prisoner release, Israel plans to announce the construction of new housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The release will take place in advance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to the region. Kerry is scheduled to arrive Wednesday, Israel Radio reported. Kerry telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday to discuss the peace talks, the broadcaster said, noting the Palestinian leadership is set to discuss its response to Israel's plans for new housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Israel agreed to release a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners in four stages when peace talks with the Palestinians resumed in the summer.

In Jerusalem Saturday night, dozens opposing the pending prisoner release demonstrated outside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence, calling on the government not to set them free, Channel 2 and Channel 10 reported.

A list released by the Israel Prison Authority revealed the majority of those to be freed were convicted of murdering Israeli civilians or soldiers and some for killing Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.

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