With Condoleezza Rice fast approaching on a peace mission, Israel offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a show of support on Monday by freeing 198 Palestinian prisoners. The group included Israel’s longest serving prisoner. Israel holds roughly 9,000 Palestinians.
AP via Google:
Israel said the release was a gesture meant to bolster Abbas and his western-leaning administration and give a boost to the slow-moving peace talks with the moderate Palestinian leader.
“It’s not easy for Israel to release prisoners. Some of the individuals being released today are guilty of direct involvement in the murder of innocent civilians,” government spokesman Mark Regev said. “But we understand the importance of the prisoner issue for Palestinian society. ... We believe this action can support the negotiation process and create goodwill.”
The fate of the roughly 9,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails is highly emotional, since many Palestinians either know someone in prison or have served time themselves. Abbas, who is struggling to show his people the fruits of the peace talks, has repeatedly urged Israel to carry out a large-scale release.