Israel Publishes Names of Palestinian Prisoners to Be Released for Peace Talks

All prisoners were involved in terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens before Oslo Accords were signed.

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Israel published early Monday the names of 26 Palestinian prisoners set be released on Wednesday as part of the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

According to the list, five of the prisoners are residents of Ramallah and El Bireh, five are from Jenin and the refugee camp there, three from Nablus, three are from Hebron, three from Bethlehem, one is from Qalqilya and five are from the Gaza Strip.

As in the first round of the prisoner release, the list omits Israeli Arab prisoners and those from East Jerusalem, even though the list of long-time prisoners contains 14 Israeli Arabs and another 10 from Jerusalem.

Pressures regarding the prisoner list

Among the prisoners slated for release are Issa Abed Rabo, who in 1984 was convicted of murdering students Revital Seri and and Ron Levy, both 23, near the Cremisan monastery south of Jerusalem. Rabo is the longest-serving prisoner on the list.

Mustafa and Ziyad Ganemat of Hebron, convicted of murdering Meir Ben Yair and Michal Cohen in the Massua Forest near Beit Shemesh in 1985, are also due for release. The list also includes Hazet Saadi and Othman Bani-Hassin, who shot teachers Leah Almakais and Yosef Eliyahu of Afula at close range as they rode in their car and threw their bodies into a water cistern in the Gilboa Forest, where they were found a week later.

Additional prisoners slated for release include Mohammed Nasser and Rafa Karage of Ramallah, who were convicted in 1985 of murdering Aharon Avidar, a soldier on reserve duty, in the Ramallah market. Taxi driver David Caspi was murdered that same year. Mohammed Ashour, also of Ramallah, one of the men convicted of having murdered him, will also be released.

So will Ahmed Damouni, who was convicted of murdering reservist Amnon Pomerantz in September 1990. As Pomerantz was on his way to report for reserve duty in the Gaza Strip, he lost his way and reached the Bureij refugee camp, where a Palestinian mob lynched him. Sharif Abu Dahila, the murderer of Avi Osher, is also due to be released. Abu Dahila, who had worked in the date orchard on Moshav Massua for 15 years, stabbed Osher to death in June 1991.

Rahman Abdel Hajj, who murdered Genia Friedman, will also be released from prison. Hajj attacked Friedman and stabbed her to death in February 1992 as she was walking with her father and two friends in Petah Tikva. Also due for release are Ahmed Abdel Aziz, Osama Abu Hnana and Mohammed Turkman, who murdered Motti Bitton as he shopped in a village near Jenin in October 1992.

Asrar Samarin and Musa Kara’an, who shot Tzvi Klein in December 1992 as he was driving to his home in the settlement Ofra to light Hanukkah candles, will also be released. Shabir Kassem Hazem, who, together with Abu Musa Salem Ali, murdered Holocaust survivor Isaac Rothenberg with an axe at a construction site in Petah Tikva, will also be released. Ali was released in the first round of 104 prisoner releases.

The list includes several prisoners who were tried after the Oslo Accords were signed, though the murders themselves took place beforehand.

All the prisoners slated for release were involved in terror attacks in which Israeli citizens were murdered. Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office said that all the prisoners to be released perpetrated the attacks for which they were imprisoned before the Oslo Accords were signed and served from 17 to 28 years in prison. Twenty-one of the prisoners are from the West Bank and five are from the Gaza Strip. The list was published on the Israel Prison Service’s website after those of the victims’ families who had asked for advance notice were notified.

Last night, the interministerial committee in charge of the release of security prisoners approved the release of the 26 prisoners. They will be released at least 48 hours after the list is published — on Tuesday night. Prime Minister’s Bureau officials said that during the ministers’ meeting, it was emphasized that a prisoner who returned to terrorist activity would be arrested and returned to prison to serve out the rest of his sentence.

On Sunday, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee rejected a bill proposed by Habayit Hayehudi and the coalition chairman, MK Yariv Levin (Likud), outlawing the release of terrorist prisoners. Habayit Hayehudi officials said they would appeal the decision. During the cabinet meeting that took place before that, ministers Yair Lapid and Gideon Sa’ar sharply criticized their colleague, Naftali Bennett. Sa’ar referred to the statements Bennett made during the funeral of Staff Sgt. Gal Kobi and seemed to link the murder with the release. “This is a morally abhorrent act,” Sa’ar said, turning to Bennett. “If the prisoner release disturbs you all so much, then resign.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of the talks, said last night on Channel 2 that Bennett’s attempt to prevent the prisoner release was an “attempt to make cynical use of a given situation already approved by the cabinet.”
On August, 26 Palestinian security prisoners were released in the first stage of the total of 104 slated for release. They were sent to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners to keep U.S.-sponsored peacemaking on course for a second round of talks, Gaza Strip, August 14, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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