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Fourth stage of prisoner release clouded with doubt

Jan. 4, 2014 10:50 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 5, 2014 6:34 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- As rumors circulate that Israel will refuse to release the final stage of 104 veteran prisoners, the Palestinian prisoners' minister says that would be a serious breach of agreement.

"From the very beginning, Israel reviewed the lists of prisoners to be released and approved them," Issa Qaraqe told Ma'an.

"In return, the Palestinian Authority agreed to abstain from filing complaints against Israel with international organizations, in order to go ahead with peace talks."

He said that if Israel refused to follow through with its agreement to release the fourth round of 26 prisoners, he would seek support from international organizations.

Of the 26 prisoners who are expected to be released in March, a number of inmates are Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. Israeli media and political analysts say the government will refuse to release them.

A Dec. 30 Channel 2 report cited unnamed Israeli officials as saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would refuse to release any "Israeli Arab" prisoners.

Israeli political analyst Eli Nissan told Ma'an that "the fourth group of prisoners will not include any Arab security prisoners."

The majority in Israel would oppose the release of such prisoners, Nissan said.

But President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he remained committed to freeing all Palestinian veteran prisoners, including those with Israeli citizenship.

Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords in conjunction with US-mediated peace talks with the PLO. Tuesday marked the release of the third round of prisoners.

According to the PA Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs, 5,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of Oct. 2013.
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