The 104 prisoners that will be be released from Israeli prison in accordance with Sunday's cabinet decision, were responsible, all told, for the deaths of 55 civilians, 15 soldiers, one female tourist and dozens of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.
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Of the prisoners, whose names appear in a list published by the Palestinian Prisoner Society, 25 are from the Gaza Strip, and will be returned there, 55 are from various cities and villages in the West Bank, 10 are residents of East Jerusalem, and 14 are Israeli citizens.
The list of prisoners the Palestinians submitted to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry does not include all prisoners from the pre-Oslo era: Palestinian Authority and PLO representatives intentionally omitted all prisoners convicted of killing Israelis for criminal, non-nationalistic motives.
The Palestinian Prisoner Society's chairman, Qadura Fares, said that in most cases, the prisoners were part of cells comprising several activists, that were involved in killing or wounding a soldier, settler or civilian. Only in a few cases did said cells kill multiple Israelis.
Fares pointed to the differences between the prisoners on this list and those who were released as part of the Shalit deal, saying the latter included prisoners who were responsible for multiple attacks that killed numerous Israelis.
Among the 104 prisoners due to be released are the killers of 15 security forces personnel, including soldiers, reserve officers, a Shin Bet agent and a border policeman. The victims in these attacks were Aharon Avidar, Avraham Bromberg, Yoram Cohen, Yehoshua Freidberg, Shmuel Gersh, Binyamin Meisner, Amnon Pomerantz, Yaakov Shaltiel, Moshe Tamam, Nissim Toledano, Shin Bet agent Chaim Nahmani, border policeman Yaron Hen, and the three casualties of the 1992 “Night of the Pitchforks” attack on an Israeli army base – Yaakov Dubinsky, Yori Farda and Guy Friedman. In most cases, all the cell members were convicted of murder even if only one or some of them were directly connected to the actual killing.
The other prisoners to be released are responsible for the deaths of 55 Israeli citizens and a French tourist. Among them are those convicted of murdering two teachers from Afula, Lea Almakeis and Yosef Eliyahu; and those who, by hurling a Molotov cocktail at a bus in the Jordan Valley, killed Rachel Weiss and her three children, as well as the soldier David Delorosa, who tried to save the family.
Also to be released are the men who hurled a Molotov cocktail at the car of Ofra Moses and her son, Tal, killing them both; the convicted murderers of Meir Ben Yair and Michal Cohen at the Britannia Park; the murderers of Gush Katif resident Simcha Levy; the murderers of Civil Administration attorney, Ian Feinberg; two Salfit residents who were convicted of the murder of Friedrich Rosenfeld near Ariel; two Nablus residents who were convicted of murdering Baruch Heitzler and injuring others by planting explosives on a bus in Ramat Gan; the convicted murderer of Prof. Menahem Stern in Jerusalem; the murderer of Jamil Hasson of Daliat al-Carmel and Mofied Canaan of Yarka; three Palestinians who were involved in the murder of Moti Biton in a village near Jenin; the man who stabbed to death Shlomo Yihya of Kadima; the man who murdered his employer at the Massoa settlement; and the killer of 84-year-old farmer Avraham Kinstler in Batzra.
Ten of the prisoners on the list were minors when they committed their crimes. Despite their age, some were sentenced to life in prison - those convicted for the murder of Almakeis and Eliyahu, two teachers. Already in 2003 there was a recommendation to reduce sentences of four of those convicted, but the justice ministers and the president did not carry it out. Unlike these prisoners, the Supreme Court commuted sentences of Zalman Schlein's murderers to 25 from the original 30-year sentence. They are set to go free in 18 months.
Nine of the prisoners to be released have also killed other Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. One of these, a resident of Jenin, was involved in the murder of 15 suspected Palestinian collaborators.
The release of convicted murderers of suspected collaborators carries a risk of further bloodshed prompted by a desire for revenge. In many cases, the evidence used to prove their collaboration was inconclusive. Fares said the PLO and the Palestinian Authority would repeat the appeal they made in former cases: "We told [the victims' families] that we must look forward, that there is no legitimization whatsoever to harm anybody, and that revenge is a negative thing."
Ya’alon: Releasing prisoners is strategically correct
The government’s decision to release security prisoners ahead of peace talks was based on “many strategic considerations which, perhaps, will be revealed in the future,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday during a visit to the Tel Hashomer military base, near Tel Aviv.
“The situation with the Palestinians is not stable and we’d like to stabilize it with an agreement,” Ya’alon said, adding that the Palestinians “were the ones who have been running away from the negotiating table until now.”
The choice before the government regarding the prisoners was “not between good and evil, but between bad and worse, and we concluded that it was better to avoid the worse alternative,” Ya’alon said. ”We realized that, in this case, we had to go with releasing the pre-Oslo prisoners. We’re talking here about murderers, about the challenge of justice and of law, of bereaved families who were hurt and I hear their voices.”
The defense minister acknowledged that “there is also a price here in deterrence and in security, but I believe that we’re moving toward an act that is being done responsibly and with good judgment. We will also provide a solution in terms of its security aspect because I know who these prisoners are, what they did and when they did it.”