12/15/2008, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Israel frees 227 Palestinian prisoners. Hand extended to Abbas, along path of peace

The decision of the Israeli government is a recognition of the efforts for peace undertaken by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. A decision ratified by the constitutional court: none of the detainees was implicated in attacks against Israel. From 2005 until today, 2,100 Palestinian prisoners have been freed.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Today, the Israeli government ordered the release of 227 Palestinian prisoners detained in the Israeli prisons. The decision made by Tel Aviv, and ratified by the constitutional court, reinforces support for President Mahmoud Abbas, because of his efforts on the path of peace; it is also seen as a conciliatory gesture on the occasion of the Muslim feast of the sacrifice - the Eid al-Adha - which concludes the Hajj, the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca.

The prisoners, 210 of whom are from the West Bank and 17 from the Gaza Strip, were handed over to the Palestinian authorities at the checkpoint of Beituniya (bordering on the West Bank) and Erez (bordering on Gaza). Most of the freed prisoners belong to Fatah, the party that supports President Abu Mazen and controls the West Bank, while there are no representatives of Hamas, the fundamentalist Islamic movement that holds power in the Gaza Strip.

The liberation of the prisoners has been ratified by the constitutional court, which rejected an appeal presented by some organizations representing settlers and relatives of victims of terrorism. A special commission, in fact, established that none of the prisoners was involved in attacks against Israeli citizens.

Greeting the detainees at the checkpoint of Beituniya, amid chanting and the waving of Palestinian and Fatah party flags, was President Mahmoud Abbas, who reiterated his own efforts to obtain the liberation of "all of the 11,000 prisoners still held in Israeli prisons." He said that he hoped those going to Gaza are not "going from one prison to another," referring to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas.

From 2005 until today, under the leadership of President Abbas, a total of 2,100 Palestinian prisoners have been freed.

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