Eve of prisoner release, opponents ask: 'Have peace talks progressed?'

On night between Tuesday, Wednesday, 26 Palestinian prisoners will head out of Ofer Prison to Gaza, West Bank crossings. Almagor group set to petition Supreme Court to block release, as Ramallah preparing celebrations

Second out of four rounds ready: Barring last minute changes, on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, 26 Palestinian prisoners are set to leave Ofer Prison on their way to freedom.


Of them, 21 will be taken to the Bituniya Crossing en route to the West Bank and th remaining five will be taken to the Erez Crossing on their way to the Gaza Strip.


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The West Bank prisoners will be taken directly from the crossing to the Muqata in Ramallah, where they will be the guests at a formal reception, hosted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas .


At the demo (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
(Photo: Gil Yohanan)

(Photo: Gil Yohanan)


Attempting to block the release, the Almagor group is expected to petition the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning. However, the justices have rejected similar petitions in the past.


The 26 were transferred on Monday to Ofer Prison, where a 3,500-strong demonstration against their release was held. The prisoners to be released are held separately from the prison's population. On the hours before their release they will undergo a process including identification, talks with Prison Service personnel, meetings with Red Cross employees and medical examinations.


The prisoners will not be required to sign a pledge not to participate in terrorist acts after their release, as they were in the past. Shortly after midnight they will be taken to the crossings, secured by Prison Service, Nachshon, police and Border Guard forces.


Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority is completing its own preparations ahead of the release. As they arrive in the West Bank, prisoners will lay a wreath on Yasser Arafat's tomb, and will then meet their families on the plaza – after a short welcome speech by President Abbas.


Preparing for release (Photo: AP)

(Photo: EPA)

 (Photo: AFP)

(Photo: AFP)


While the Palestinian Authority is trying to score as many political points as possible from the release – Hamas , predictably, is completely ignoring the event.


Top members of the Islamic group have kept total silence, and the organization's affiliated media outlets have offered no coverage of the prisoner release.


Last ditch effort

As mentioned, it is estimated that the Almagor group will try to prevent the release through a petition to the Supreme Court.


Meir Indor, the director of the group, which represents the families of terror victims, said: "We'll argue that the Supreme Court has ruled before that political matters also merit an examination in the view of the reasonability test, and according to that test, in light of the last month and the intensifying terror, this deal should be stopped.


"We'll pose the Supreme Court with the question, whether it's right to signal other terrorists, 'commit murder and then be lavishly received by the Palestinian Authority.'"


Indor added that he knows the Supreme Court can change matters. "We want to ask how did the peace talks progress. Why are there four rounds? These rounds were created as a regulation, is it working? What are the procedures? Also, we'll wonder whether significant faults were discovered in the release process."


Attending the protest against the release were Habayit Hayehudi 's Minister Uri Ariel and several of the party's MKs. The party, a member of the coalition, has voiced strong opposition to the prisoner release, in defiance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's admonishment, urging them to accept the government's decision and "behave responsibly."


Habayit Hayehudi MK Orit Struck, present at the demonstration, addressed the protestors and said: "The 104 terrorists currently being released are just the entry dish. They have more than 5,000 terrorists and they want to free them all. Israeli citizens and MKs must form a wall, not to let more terrorists be released."


Drawing to the Right

Fellow party member MK Yoni Shatboun said the government's decision was wrong. "The decision puts Israel's citizens in danger," he said. "Today we're exposed to the fact that the motivation for terror is derived from the existence of terrorist release, plain and simple."


He added: "Part of my democratic right as an MK is to voice my opinion in the parliament and express a stance against a decision which jeopardizes Israeli citizens, and I'm proud of it.


"I think Habayit Hayehudi should do some soul searching and see whether it should remain in the coalition. Right now, when the peace talks are shrouded in secrecy, and led by Tzipi Livni , Habayit Hayehudi has a very significant role to draw to government to the Right and keep Netanyahu in his place."


Raanan Ben-Zur, Elior Levy contributed to this report



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פרסום ראשון: 10.29.13, 00:09
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