Release of Palestinian Prisoners Canceled

JERUSALEM, Oct 7, (AP) — A group of 151 Palestinian prisoners who were supposed to be freed Friday will remain locked up for now after a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over which people to release.

Under the terms of an interim peace agreement signed Sept. 4 in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Israel was to release the prisoners on Oct. 8, which the Palestinians observe as an annual day in solidarity with the prisoners.

Israel released a first group of 199 prisoners on Sept. 9, in accordance with the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.

But the second release was postponed after Israel said the Palestinians raised demands that were not part of the latest agreement.

The Palestinians say the Israelis are trying to hold back 47 political prisoners who have longer sentences and instead release those with shorter sentences who would be out in a few months anyway.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said Thursday that the decision about which prisoners to release is Israel’s alone, though the Palestinians should be consulted.

Israel television reported that the prisoner release might be delayed until late next week.

Release of prisoners is a highly charged issue among Palestinians, who see the inmates as heroes who resisted Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel radio reported that in a meeting with families of victims of Palestinian attacks, Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared that he would prefer to see those who killed Israelis stay in jail.

The delay appears to be a setback in Israel-Palestinian peacemaking, which seemed to be back on track as recently as Wednesday, when the two sides signed an accord allowing Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza through Israel.

The deal was Barak’s attempt to counter protests from Israelis whose relatives had been killed by extremist Palestinians. Barak explained that instead of releasing killers, he preferred to free members of radical Palestinian groups who were not involved in killing Israelis.

 Source: Associated Press

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