JERUSALEM (AFP) – An Israeli ministerial committee on Tuesday approved the list of 250 Palestinian prisoners to be freed as a gesture to president Mahmud Abbas, clearing the way for the men’s release.
“The ministerial committee met this morning and approved the list,” said David Baker, an official from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office.
Barring any legal challenges to the release within the next 48 hours, the prisoners are due to be released on Friday, he said.
Israel pledged to release the prisoners as a gesture to Abbas, one of several steps taken to bolster the moderate leader after security services loyal to him were overrun in Gaza by fighters from Islamist Hamas a month ago.
The vast majority of the prisoners — 85 percent — belong to Abbas’s Fatah party. They include 11 minors, with the rest adults who have at least a year left to serve in their sentence.
While welcoming the release, the Palestinians have said that freeing 250 prisoners out of the more than 11,000 held in Israeli jails was not enough.
“The president demanded that political leaders be included among them,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told reporters in Ramallah after Abbas and Olmert held talks on Monday.
Other recent Israeli gestures to Abbas have also included a pledge to take off wanted lists nearly 190 militants who had promised not to wage anti-Israel attacks and releasing a portion of Palestinian custom duties that it has withheld for more than a year after Hamas came to power.