JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel will release 87 Palestinian prisoners early next week, Israeli officials said Tuesday, days after the Cabinet approved the move in a gesture meant to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The release had been expected to take place this week. But Israeli officials said it will now occur next Monday. They said the date had been coordinated with Palestinian authorities.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hopes the gesture will help strengthen Abbas in his rivalry with the Hamas militant group. In a similar gesture, Israel released about 250 prisoners in July.
Israel holds about 11,000 Palestinian prisoners. Israel hopes that freeing small numbers of prisoners will help rally public opinion for Abbas as the sides try to step up peace efforts ahead of a U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference in November.
Israel has said none of the prisoners are serving time for attacks on Israelis. Most of the prisoners come from Abbas’ Fatah movement, and none belong to Hamas.