JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel will free 87 Palestinian prisoners, mostly from president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party, on Monday following a cabinet decision to make the release as a Ramadan goodwill gesture, officials said.
“We will free 87 prisoners, the majority of them from Fatah,” a spokesman for the prisons authority told AFP.
“Among them, 29 come from the Gaza Strip and the rest from Judaea and Samaria (the West Bank),” he said.
The Israeli cabinet approved the release a week ago after assurances given by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Abbas during their regular talks ahead of an international peace conference expected in November.
Israel — which is currently detaining more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners — has been aiming to boost Abbas in his powerbase in the West Bank ever since Islamist Hamas seized control of Gaza in mid-June by routing forces loyal to the moderate president.
Palestinians welcomed the release, but said that Israel must do more to support Abbas, like lifting the more than 500 roadblocks in the West Bank that severely constrain freedom of movement in the territory and feed resentment.
The last time Israel carried out a major prisoner release was in July, when it freed more than 250 Palestinians in a bid to bolster Abbas in the aftermath of the bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas the previous month.