Israel's interim PM Ehud Olmert has announced that Israel is to release 250 Palestinian prisoners as a signal of goodwill following talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during talks on Monday to release 250 Palestinians prisoners next month, a spokesman for Olmert said.
"The 250 prisoners will be released in advance of the upcoming Muslim holiday," said the spokesman, describing the move as a goodwill gesture towards Abbas, who revived peace talks with Israel after breaking with Hamas Islamist rivals last year.
Muslims celebrate the al-Adha feast next month.
The spokesman said the prisoners Israel plans to release would not be aligned with Islamist movements.
Israel last freed Palestinian prisoners on Aug. 25, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has been trying to broker a peace deal. At the time, it described the release of the 198 prisoners as a bid to bolster Abbas.
Some 11,000 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons and securing their freedom is a highly emotive issue in Palestinian society, which regards them as symbols of resistance to occupation.
"President Abbas asked Mr Olmert to sustain a comprehensive truce in Gaza and to release prisoners. Mr Olmert agreed to release 250 prisoners early next month," said Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat.
A five-month-old, Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been tested over the past two weeks by a surge of violence that has included Israeli raids and airstrikes in the territory and rocket attacks by militants.
Date created : 2008-11-17