Israel to release 26 Palestinian prisoners Monday: official

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A Palestinian hurls a rock at Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh during a protest against the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian land on December 27, 2013. (Photo: AFP - Abbas Momani)

Published Sunday, December 29, 2013

The 26 Palestinian prisoners Israel has agreed to free as part of so-called peace talks will be released on Monday, a source in Israeli prime minister's office said, as the occupying force prepares to announce the illegal construction of 1,400 settler homes.

Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in line with commitments to the US-backed negotiations between Israel and the western-backed Palestinian Authority, which resumed in July. Previous groups have been freed on August 13 and October 30.

But Israel has arrested hundreds of other Palestinians, mostly in overnight home raids in the West Bank, since the talks resumed. Those arrests are documented on a daily basis in Palestinian, including Ma'an and state news agency Wafa.

"Their release should come on Monday night after the 48-hour delay given for appeals from victims' families to the supreme court," the official in Netanyahu's office told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In the past, Israel's supreme court has turned down all appeals against the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Netanyahu's government gave the green light on Saturday for the latest group of prisoners to be freed.

Ma'an published a list of names of the prisoners due to be released Monday.

"All of the released prisoners perpetrated offenses prior to the (1993) Oslo accords and have served sentences of 19-28 years," an Israeli government statement on Saturday said.

"If any of those to be released resume hostile activity they will be returned to serve the remainder of their sentences," the statement warned.

Meanwhile, Israel is set to announce plans for new settlement construction to coincide with the prisoners' release, an official said on Thursday, which is considered illegal under international law.

Media reports say the plans are for 1,400 settler homes.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and the European Union earlier this month urged Netanyahu to delay plans to announce new settlement construction so as to not derail negotiations.

But Netanyahu was bullish in the face of international pressure over settlement construction.

"We will not stop, even for a moment, building our country and becoming stronger, and developing... the settlement enterprise," he told members of his rightwing Likud party last week.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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