Israel to free 250 Palestinian prisoners
Prime Minister Olmert meets with Palestinian President Abbas in Jerusalem, informs him Jewish state will release Fatah inmates as goodwill gesture in honor of Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. All prisoners freed will be forced to sign commitment not to return to terror
Israeli officials clarified that the gesture will include the release of prisoners who were involved in terror but belong to the moderate camp, and are not members of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad.
The release is part of Israel's effort to encourage the moderate forces and prove that such gestures can only be reached by taking the road of peace.
Leaders agree to meet again (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
All the prisoners slated to be freed will be forced to sign a commitment that they would not return to terrorism.
Israeli officials have began preparing the list of names of prisoners designated for release, which will then be handed over to the Ministerial Committee on the Release of Palestinian Prisoners.
Sources at the Prime Minister's Office said that Israel releases Palestinian prisoners every year ahead of the Muslim holiday.
Olmert: Hamas to blame for Gaza crisis
The two leaders also discussed the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip. Abbas and his entourage stressed the importance of maintaining the calm. The prime minister in turn reiterated that Hamas was to blame for the violation of the ceasefire, and warned the continued deterioration of the situation will eventually necessitate an Israeli response.
Olmert made a point to clarify there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that Israel was working to prevent the development of such a shortage in goods and supplies.
The meeting was divided into two parts, the first involving the negotiating teams from both sides and the latter part of the meeting dedicated to a 40 minute tête-à-tête between Olmert and Abbas.
The two discussed the recent deployment of PA security forces in Hebron in Jenin. Abbas briefed Olmert on the successful operations undertaken by his troops, and Olmert expressed Israel's appreciation of the
PA's efforts to curtail terror in the West Bank. The prime minister also praised the cooperation between Israel and the PA on security.
Another topic touched on briefly was the upcoming elections in the Palestinian Authority, which are scheduled to take place in January. The Palestinians also voiced their objection to Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu's economic plan for peace, saying they would not agree to cooperate on it.
The intensive meetings between the two will pick up after Olmert returns from his upcoming visit to Washington.