Israel has informed the United States of plans to release the next group of Palestinian prisoners on Dec. 30 under a U.S.-brokered peace plan, the State Department said on Friday.
"Although we had expected the release to occur on December 29, we have been informed that technical issues made it necessary to do the release a day later," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The release of about two dozen prisoners, the third group to be free since the talks resumed in July, are seen by the United States as an important next-step toward reaching an interim peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians by April.
A final agreement will then take about a year to negotiate.
On Thursday, the Palestinian Authority warned Israel against announcing new settlement construction in response to prisoner release, as the government did following the two previous releases.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said if Israel goes ahead with settlement approval, the Palestinians will seek membership in 63 international organizations, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Erekat said they would take Israel to the international court for war crimes and violations of international law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Israel's plans for new housing tenders in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem next week, following the release of the third group of Palestinian prisoners, an official in Jerusalem said Wednesday.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club, an independent NGO, said that as in the first two rounds of the prisoner release, this time again there will be no Israeli Arabs among those freed, nor any from East Jerusalem.
With two more stages remaining of the prisoner release, mandated by the current peace talks initiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 53 of the 104 prisoners to be freed remain in Israeli jails. All were put behind bars before the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords. Those who are not released in the upcoming stage are due to be freed in the fourth and final one.
The 53 remaining there are considered the most serious criminals on the list, all having been convicted of murder or being accessories to murder, and all sentenced to life imprisonment.
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