Israel will release 26 Palestinian prisoners

12 August 2013 09:45
Israel (QHA) - Israel's government has approved the release of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners, as part of a deal which will see peace talks resume next week, BBC reports. On Sunday evening, a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that 26 prisoners would be released. The statement emphasized that if one of those released will return to engage in hostile activity against Israel, he will be returned to complete his sentence. A list of names chosen by a ministerial committee was published overnight. The prisoners will be freed on Tuesday. The delay allows time for last-minute legal challenges by victims' families. Earlier on Sunday, a small group of victims' relatives protested against the releases outside the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem. The announcement came after Palestinian officials accused Israel of trying to sabotage the peace talks by approving nearly 1,200 new settlement homes. An Israeli government spokesman dismissed the criticism, saying every peace initiative so far had proposed that the settlements in question become Israeli territory. The Palestinians have previously agreed in principle to minor land swaps. About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. Last month, the Israeli cabinet approved the release over the coming months a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners were signed as part of efforts to restart US-brokered direct peace talks after a three-year hiatus. The Israeli announcements on prisoner releases and settlement construction were reportedly co-ordinated with US officials as part of the pre-talks framework agreed by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington on 30 and 31 July.