The second stage of the Palestinian prisoners' release is underway, as 26 prisoners left Israeli prisons Tuesday night, as part of an Israeli gesture to the Palestinian Authority in light of the resumption of peace talks.
The prisoners who arrived in Ramallah were welcomed by some 2,000 people, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who vowed to continue his efforts to ensure that all prisoners are released, and that he will not sign any agreement with Israel until all prisoners are released. "There will not be an agreement with Israel even if one prisoner remains behind bars," he said.
- 26 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails
- Release of second group of prisoners approved
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Five of the prisoners have left Ofer Prison earlier Tuesday and were taken to the Erez Crossing, from which they later crossed into the Gaza Strip. Twenty-one prisoners were released after 1 am Wednesday from the Ofer Prison, headed to the Bitunia checkpoint, where they were released into the West Bank.
The identity of the 26 men was decided by a ministerial committee chaired by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon that conferred with heads of the defense establishment.
The decision prompted protest by the families of the terrorists' victims who filed a petition with the High Court of Justice that was ultimately denied.
Highlighting the opposition to the move, some 50 Israelis protested outside the West Bank prison where the inmates were held ahead of the release. They held signs reading "death to murderers" and burned keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian headscarves. Over a 1,000 people demonstrated against the release on Monday.
Prisoners released Tuesday:
1. Mohamed Ibrahim Nasr, arrested in May 1985
2. Rafi Farhoud Karajeh, arrested in May 1985
3. Mohamed Ahmed al- Sabbagh, arrested in January 1991
4. Hazem Kassem Shbair, arrested in March 1994
5. Ahmed said al-Damuni, arrested in September 1990
6. Yusef Awwad Masalha, arrested in May 1993
7. Sharif Hasan Abu Dhailah, arrested in May 1992
8. Mustafa Amer Ghnaimat, arrested in July 1985
9. Rizek Ali Salah, arrested in June 1993
10. Afu Musbah Shkair, arrested in July 1986
11. Muayad Salim Hijja, arrested in May 1992
12. Najeh Mohamed Muqbel, arrested in July 1990
13. Hilmi Hamad al-Amawi, arrested in January 1994
14. Issa Nimer Abed Rabbo, arrested in October 1984
15. Haza’a Mohamed Sa’di, arrested in July 1985
16. Najeh Mohamed Muqbel, arrested in July 1990
17. Abdel Rahman Yusef al- Haj, arrested in February 1992
18. Osama Zakariya Abu Hanani, arrested in October 1992
19. Mohamed Yusef Turkeman, arrested in October 1992
20. Ahmed Said Abdel Aziz, arrested in February 1993
21. Mohamed Musbah Ashour, arrested in February 1986
22. Omar Issa Masoud, arrested in May 1993
23. Khaled Daoud Azraq, arrested in February 1991
24. Othman Abdallah Bani Hasan, arrested in July 1985
25. Israr Mustafa Samarin, arrested in August 1992
26. Musa Izzat Kura’n, arrested in August 1992
Ramallah prepares for released prisoners' arrival
Ramallah residents were preparing for 21 prisoners who are set to arrive at the West Bank. Palestinian security forces bolstered the Muqata compound as thousands are expected to arrive at the compound to welcome the released prisoners.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to greet the released prisoners in Ramallah at a welcoming ceremony.
In Gaza, some 300 people amassed ahead of the release to welcome the prisoners at the Erez Crossing with Israel, where music blared and dozens of people brandished flags and signs reading "we will never forget our heroes."
Elior Levy, Noam (Dabul) Dvir, Omri Efraim, Attila Somfalvi, Raanan Ben-Zur and AP contributed to this report
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