Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has agreed to release 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners as part of a U.S.-brokered deal that led to the resumption of Mideast peace talks.
Sunday's Cabinet vote set into motion the second leg of prisoner releases agreed upon before Israel and the Palestinians renewed long-frozen peace negotiations in August. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning on approving new settlement construction to appease hard-liners who oppose the release.
A statement from Netanyahu's office on Sunday said 26 prisoners, jailed for violence committed before a 1993 interim accord, would be freed. Twenty-six prisoners have already been freed, Reuters noted, adding that the inmates due to be freed in this second stage spent 19 to 28 years behind bars, 21 are from the occupied West Bank and five are from the Gaza Strip.
The statement suggested the latest releases would not happen before Tuesday, Reuters added, saying Israelis would have 48 hours to appeal the names on the list being published later on Sunday.
The fate of Palestinian prisoners stirs strong emotions on both sides, highlighting the competing narratives of the conflict. Many of those to be freed were involved in killing Israelis.
Most Palestinians view the prisoners as heroes regardless of their acts, arguing they made personal sacrifices in the struggle for independence. Most Israelis view them as terrorists for targeting civilians.
TheBlaze reported that among the first 26 of the 104 long-held prisoners were those convicted of murdering the elderly – including one Holocaust survivor – using axes, rods and in one case chopping off the victims’ ears.
Victim advocates are blasting Netanyahu’s government for caving to U.S. and Palestinian pressure, Reuters reported, while the Palestinian Authority has launched a diplomatic campaign to rebrand the murderers as “freedom fighters.”