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Minister: Israel refusing to release sick prisoners

Oct. 22, 2013 7:58 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 23, 2013 7:10 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Prisoners minister Issa Qaraqe on Tuesday said that the Israeli government refused Palestinian Authority requests to release prisoners facing serious health problems.

At a sit-in in solidarity with prisoners at the Red Cross in al-Bireh, Qaraqe said that the PA would continue to pressure Israel into releasing prisoners whose health is deteriorating.

He also said the PA was working to fight "medical negligence" in Israeli jails.

According to Qaraqe, Israel has refused to hand over the names of 26 prisoners expected to be released in the second batch of veteran prisoners next Tuesday.

“Israel refuses to present us with names,” Qaraqe. “The Palestinian leadership demanded to participate in choosing the names for the next batch.”

Qaraqe expressed hope that the next group would be released on time and denounced calls within Israel's government opposing the arrangement.

According to Israeli media, Israel will release a second group of prisoners Oct. 29.

Palestinian and Israeli officials told The Times of Israel that 30 Palestinians are to be released as part of a gesture to coincide with a return to peace talks with the PLO.

The first group of 26 veteran prisoners, including 17 who had life sentences, took place on Aug. 14. A total of 104 prisoners is expected to be released by Israel.

In early October, Israel rejected a request from the Palestinian Authority to bring forward the second release date to coincide with the Eid al-Adha holiday.

The remaining prisoners will be released on Dec. 29 and March 28, Qaraqe said last month.

The planned releases stirred protests from Israeli victims' families, settlers and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hardline coalition partners.

There are 5,007 Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 137 people held without trial, 12 women and 180 children, according to Addameer prisoners group.

US-sponsored direct peace talks resumed in late July after a hiatus of nearly three years, although both sides have kept a tight lid on the substance under discussion at the request of Washington.

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