Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners
Israel has freed the second of four batches of 26 Palestinian prisoners, as part of a deal for the resumption of so-called peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for Israel’s prison service, said 21 prisoners were released to the occupied West Bank and five to the besieged Gaza Strip early on Wednesday.
Some 104 Palestinian inmates are likely to be freed over the coming months.
In the occupied Palestinian territories, people celebrated as the prisoners were released.
Last Week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to free 26 Palestinian prisoners.
“The release of 26 prisoners has been validated this evening,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office on Sunday.
More than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli prisons, many of them without charge or trial.
An Israeli official claimed last week that the move was linked to a deal with the PA in exchange for continued settlement construction in the occupied territories.
But the PA has vehemently denied the allegation, saying the construction activities seriously threaten the talks that resumed in July after a three-year halt.
Earlier this month, a large number of Palestinians from different political movements took to the streets of the West Bank city of Ramallah to call on the PA to pull out from the talks with Israel.
Supporters of all Palestinian factions, including the Islamic resistance movement Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, gathered in central Arafat square to protest against the talks.
The protesters said the talks are useless and acting PA chief Mahmoud Abbas must withdraw from the negotiations.
They also demanded the PA take the regime in Tel Aviv to the International Criminal Court for its crimes against the people of Palestine.
Israel has recently announced plans to build about 3,000 more illegal settlement units on the occupied Palestinian land.
The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.