Israel to release Palestinian prisoners ahead of peace talks revival



JERUSALEM – Israel will release a “limited” number of Palestinian prisoners, government minister Yuval Steinitz said on Saturday, a day after the US announced direct peace talks will resume between the two sides.

“There will be a limited release of prisoners,” Steinitz, the minister in charge of international relations, strategic affairs and intelligence, told public radio without giving numbers.

Steinitz did not say when the release would take place, but said it would be “in stages.”

“There will definitely be a certain gesture here,” he added.

He said some of those to be freed have been in Israeli jails for up to 30 years.

Steinitz’s remarks came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry said Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet in Washington in the near future after an agreement on the basis to resume peace talks.

According to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, there are 4,713 Palestinians prisoners in Israel, including 169 in administrative detention where they can be held without charge for renewable periods of up to six months.

Talks have stuttered and started for decades in the elusive bid to reach a final peace deal between the Arab world and Israel.

But they collapsed completely in September 2010 when Israel refused to keep up a freeze on settlement building in Palestinian territories.



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