The list of the prisoners, all of whom are serving lengthy sentences in various jails, was released late yesterday (Saturday 28th December). All are associated with terrorist elements in the Palestinian independence movement and had been convicted of killing Israeli citizens.
In an announcement upon the release of the list, the Israeli government said that the detainees had committed their crimes before the first Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 1993, and had already served between 19 and 28 years of their sentences to date, and would be eligible for release back into their communities as part of conditions for renewed peace negotiations between the two sides.
Under heavy pressure from American politicians, most notably Secretary of State John Kerry, the two warring sides began restarting stalled communications in July 2013. The Palestinian side were served with a pre-condition to the resumption that they would drop demands for a stop to the building of settler homes by the Israelis on land the Palestinians claim for a new state. In exchange, Israel agreed to terminate the prison sentences of 104 of the longest serving Palestinian detainees it now holds. This week’s release is the fourth such set up by Israeli authorities.
The release programme has met with protests by the families of Israelis killed by the prisoners in their ‘intifada’ or struggle against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory since the formation of Israel as a state in 1947 from the erstwhile British mandate of Palestine. One such protest took place outside the country’s defence ministry in capital Tel-Aviv last Thursday. One young man was seen holding a placard depicting an Israeli government certificate with two bloody handprints superimposed on it. Meanwhile the media in Israel have criticised the government’s move as the prisoners due to be set free were all involved in deadly attacks, and that Palestinians have not reciprocated by releasing Israeli soldiers in their detention.
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