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Israel set for new prisoner release as Kerry heads back to region
Published Sunday 29/12/2013 (updated) 31/12/2013 10:36
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A released Palestinian prisoner wave to supporters upon his arrival
in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Oct. 30, 2013
(AFP/File Ahmad Gharabli)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel prepared Sunday to free 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of peace talks brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is due back in the region to boost the faltering negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to the phased release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in line with commitments to the US-backed talks, which resumed in July, and previous batches have been freed in August and October.

The release of the third tranche of 26 Palestinian prisoners "should come on Monday night after the 48-hour delay given for appeals from victims' families to the supreme court," an official in Netanyahu's office told AFP.

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 tranche of prisoners to be freed.

"All of the released prisoners perpetrated offences prior to the (1993) Oslo accords and have served sentences of 19-28 years," a government statement said.

To the fury of the Palestinians, the two previous prisoner releases were accompanied by announcements of new construction plans for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including annexed East Jerusalem.

Monday's is expected to be no different despite appeals to desist from the the United States as well as the European Union.

Israeli media reports suggested Netanyahu was likely to unveil plans to build an additional 1,400 housing units, on top of those already announced, following strong pressure from ultra-nationalist members of his governing coalition.

At a meeting of his right-wing Likud party last week, Netanyahu was defiant in the face of the EU and US pressure for a freeze while talks continue.

"We will not stop, even for a moment, building our country and becoming stronger, and developing ... the settlement enterprise," he said.

The latest prisoner release comes as Kerry prepares to begin a fresh tour of the region on New Year's Day to try to push the talks forward.

It will be his 10th trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank since March, with his most recent visit earlier this month.

Kerry has been pressing Israel and the Palestinians to agree a framework for a final settlement ahead of an agreed late April target date for the conclusion of the negotiations.

US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told army radio that "the objective is to reach a framework for the negotiations in the coming months, that would put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian" conflict.

Shapiro admitted he "did not know if there would be a breakthrough this visit, but he (Kerry) could return again later."

The ambassador did not rule out the possibility that the talks could extend beyond their April deadline, something specifically excluded by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at an Arab League meeting in Cairo earlier this month.

At same meeting, Abbas also ruled out any more interim accords like the successive deals in the 1990s that gave the Palestinians limited autonomy in Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
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1 ) Kerry should go to the / ARAB LEAGUE
29/12/2013 09:41
if he wants peace!

2 ) Rondo Mondo / Canada
29/12/2013 19:16
While Arab rejectionism continues, Mrii Regev's bill to apply Israeli law and sovereignty to the Jordan valley passed the legislation committee vote. The longer the Palestinians persist with their futile violent resistance and reject reasonable offers of peace, Israel will continue to grow while Palestine will continue to diminish until it is left with Area "A" and "B" towns for their state. Abbas should have accepted Olmert's offer in 2008 and what Netanyahu is now offering.

3 ) Maureen / Australia
29/12/2013 20:10
Kerry heads back to region. Why - to see that his Zionist friends are able to keep trampling on Palestinian culture uninterupted!

4 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
29/12/2013 20:39
It's clear why Maan does not list the prisoners and what they were in jail for. They were all convicted of murder or attempted murder - mostly of civilians. What is amazing is the gullibility of the world community who is so numb from decades of Palestinian whining and terrorism that they simply don't care to ask. All the "prisoners" released this year are convicted murderers - some of them mass murderers. Each one gets a $50,000 cash reward for his "heroism". How disgusting.

5 ) spb / usa
30/12/2013 20:35
when is his next visit?

6 ) @ Brian-4 / USA
31/12/2013 02:36
- It is not only the whining. It is that putting Jewish blood at risks costs them nothing, and siding with Israel risks bringing terrorism to their soil. - Death is what these pre-meditated, multiple murderers deserved, and "an eye for eye" would be killing their family members too, so a few conditions upon their freedom is more "goodwill" than deserved.
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