Israel pulls 20 Palestinians from list of 250 prisoners set for release
Ministers removes Gazans from intended list as it approves goodwill gesture to PA President Abbas.
The ministerial committee overseeing the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails approved on Sunday the release of 230 prisoners as a gesture of goodwill toward the Palestinian Authority ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Last week, the cabinet approved a list of 250 prisoners, during its weekly meeting. Some 20 names were removed from the original list following objections by several ministers, who were opposed to releasing prisoners into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The list of prisoners includes mainly members of the Fatah faction, led by moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and none are classified as having "blood on their hands" or having been directly involved in the murder of Israelis.
After the list was approved, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said "the prisoner release builds on a trend of destructive one-sidedness that is detached from reality."
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was one of the ministers opposed to the released of Gaza residents, added that "the likelihood that these [prisoners] will not return to terrorism is zero, and they should not be released."
The father of Gilad Shalit, an Israel Defense Forces soldier who was abducted by Gaza militants in 2006, voiced objection to the release of Palestinian prisoners and called the government's decision "strange." In a press release, Noam Shalit said "since Gilad's abduction some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have been freed, not including the current list, but including several Hamas members, as part of different goodwill gestures that made not even the slightest progress toward Gilad's release."
The Israel Defense Forces issued a statement outlining additional gestures of goodwill to be afforded to the Palestinians for the duration of the Eid al-Adha holiday, including the extension of the operation hours of the Hawara, Awarta, Beit Furik and Beit Iba crossings.
In addition, Palestinian men over 45 will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount, Israeli Arabs will be allowed to enter Area A in the West Bank to visit family members, Palestinian families in the West Bank will be granted entry into Israel to visit immediate family, and restrictions at several other crossings will be eased.