Photo: Tsafrir Abayov
Palestinian prisoners
Photo: Tsafrir Abayov
Abbas gov't needs support
Photo: AP
Photo: AFP
Barghouti - a popular man
Photo: AFP

We asked for release of senior Fatah prisoners, Palestinian sources say

Sources add Israel poised to respond favorably; Olmert's office: No such negotiations took place; PA sources explain release of prisoners like Barghouti not requested for now

The Palestinian Authority recently asked Israel to release a group of prisoners - residents of the West Bank - as a trust-building step to strengthen the new Palestinian emergency government, Palestinian sources told Ynet Thursday evening. The PA also relayed the message through European Union representatives, they said.


According to the sources, Israel said they looked favorably upon the request. As such, Palestinians expect the imminent release of dozens of short-term prisoners, without "blood on their hands", among them a number of senior members of Fatah in the West Bank.


In reference to these rumors, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office told Ynet that no negotiations were taking place regarding the release of prisoners. State sources said they expected progress of the issue of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, via Egyptian mediation, as a prerequisite for discussing the issue of Palestinian prisoners.


Sources in the Palestinian Authority said they had not requested the release of senior prisoners such as Marwan Barghouti, but rather prisoners who could help Fatah in their struggle against Hamas in the West Bank and, primarily, promote an atmosphere of support for the new PA government.


In recent days, Palestinian security officers met with representatives of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades – Fatah's military wing – across the West Bank, and requested they stop executing armed attacks or carrying weapons in public. 


The request is part of the PLO Central Council's plan to disarm militias, in order to combat the security-related anarchy in the West Bank.


In the West Bank, members of Hamas and other organizations no longer openly carry weapons, such that, according to the PA sources, the disarmament plan is now aimed primarily at the al-Aqsa Brigades.


However, arrests are still being carried out against suspected members of Hamas' military wing – Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades – and its Executive Force.  The sources said there is no intention to enter into combat with the Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees, whose operations in the West Bank are limited.


From a political perspective, the release of Fatah-affiliated could greatly increase the emergency government's popularity. Barghouti, for example, received support for 59 percent of respondents in a recent poll that pitted him against former PA prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.


פרסום ראשון: 06.21.07, 20:48
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