Israel to release 400 including Hamas, Islamic Jihad

Special to World
Monday, July 21, 2003

JERUSALEM Israel has prepared a list of more than 400 Palestinians being prepared for release, despite official misgivings.

Officials said the Israel Security Agency has submitted a list of prisoners eligible for release under the guidelines of the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. They said the release includes more than 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members.

Sharon has obtained the list and plans to convene the committee for releasing prisoners on Wednesday. Officials said the list will be released within the subsequent days and Palestinians could be freed shortly after.

On Sunday, Sharon's office said the committee will be reconvened after his trip to the United States next week. The statement said the panel will conduct another evaluation of the criteria by which prisoners are released.

Sharon and Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas met on Sunday and were said to have argued over the number of prisoners to be freed. Abbas demanded a commitment for the release of Palestinians convicted of murdering Israelis, something Sharon rejected.

"The numbers are not acceptable to us," PA Minister for Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdul Razik said. "We agreed that the issue would be in accordance to a joint panel and not by one side."

Both Abbas and Sharon will meet U.S. President George Bush over the next 10 days. Israel and the PA also agreed to discuss military withdrawal from cities in the West Bank.

A Cabinet statement quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying that Israel would continue its security dialogue with the PA "based on the clear demand that the latter make tangible progress in the security sphere and in the war on terror."

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