Israel Lists Names of 26 Palestinian Prisoners to Be Freed This Week

List published to allow two days for possible court appeals before prisoners released to Palestinian Authority; Palestinians threaten to cancel peace talks over terms of release.

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Israel has published the names of 26 Palestinian prisoners who are to be released later this week as part of a U.S.-brokered deal that led to a resumption of Mideast negotiations.

Twenty-one in the group were convicted of killing Israelis or suspected Palestinian collaborators, while others were involved in attempted murder or kidnapping. Most have already served 20 years.

Among the 26 prisoners Israel will release on Tuesday are three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, two from Hamas and one from the Islamic Jihad. Fifteen are residents of the Gaza Strip and will be released there; four come from Nablus, another four from Jenin, one from Bethlehem and one from Hebron.

Some of the convicted killers on the list are Salah Ahmed Ibrahim Mughdad who in the 1990s murdered 70-year-old Israel Tenenbaum; Samir Abdel Na'anish, convicted for the 1989 murder of Israeli soldier Benyamin Meisner in Nablus; Mahmoud Bad Almagid Saulha and Fauza Ahmed Husseini Saulha from Nablus who as minors stabbed to death teenager Baruch Heizler at a bus station.

Israel's Prison Service posted the names online early on Monday to allow two days for possible court appeals.

The prisoners are seen in Palestinian communities as heroes while many Israelis view those involved in killings as terrorists.

Meir Indor, who heads a group of Israeli victims' families, says it's a "sad day for bereaved families and for Israeli society."

The inmates are to be transferred into the Palestinian Authority's territory on Tuesday night.

The special ministerial committee on the release of Palestinian prisoners decided in a late-night meeting that any of the convicts who resume terrorist activity will be arrested and returned to Israel to serve harsher sentences.

Abbas and Erekat were especially enraged by reports in the Israeli press that due to their perceived security risk, Netanyahu plans to deport to the Gaza Strip or abroad some of the prisoners released in the next three phases, not allowing them return to their West Bank homes.

Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Palestinian negotiator Erekat told senior U.S. officials they would not agree to the deportation of any prisoner released.

The Palestinians also condemned two different plans for settlement construction recently announced by Israeli officials. On Sunday, the Housing Ministry said it began marketing 1,200 housing units in East Jerusalem and the settlement blocs around the capital, which follows another announcement last week for construction of hundreds of housing units in secluded settlements.

Peace talks are to start Wednesday in Jerusalem, after a five-year freeze.

Freed Palestinian prisoners and supporters celebrate their release in 2008.Credit: AP



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