Israel decides not to release Hamas, Islamic Jihad prisoners
Israel will not free Hamas or Islamic Jihad prisoners, according to a decision reached Wednesday by the ministerial committee on prisoner release, Israel Radio reported.
During a Wednesday morning meeting in Jerusalem, the committee decided to adopt the Shin Bet security service's recommendations for releasing Palestinian prisoners. The committee met to debate the exact timing of a release of Palestinian detainees as part of the Israel's commitments under the U.S.-backed road map.
The only official announcement from the meeting was that the committee would convene in about two weeks to again discuss the release of prisoners.
Prior to the meeting it was reported that Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has agreed to release some 100 more prisoners than originally planned. Israeli sources confirmed Tuesday night that 450 prisoners would be released.
The Israeli Minster of Defense - Shaul Mofaz – met last night with the Israeli security apparatus to discuss the ‘prisoner issue’ before presenting it to the committee.
The list - prepared by the Shin Bet - reported to include 350 prisoners that Israel has agreed to release, amongst which are between 40-60 prisoners from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs told Al Bawaba that the Israeli side has been trying to dictate its conditions for the release of the Palestinian prisoners in the recent negotiations between the two sides. On their part, leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad criticized the performance of the PA as far as its negotiations with Israel are concerned.
In a statement to Al Bawaba, the PA Minster of Prisoner Affairs - Hisham Abdalraziq - said that the negotiations with the Israelis vis-a-vis the release of the prisoners have been lingering. “There has been no progress so far due to Israel’s insistence on imposing their own conditions…by offering what suits their interests without any consideration to ours. They expect us to only express our gratitude [at whatever we get from them],” he said.
Asked about prisoners from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, Abdalraziq said, “Negotiations are blocked from all aspects. We cannot give concessions because of the importance of the issue [of the prisoners] to us. Israel wants the issue to be fragmented but we at the PA refuse this and view the matter as a one issue. All the prisoners are Palestinians and Israel should recognize that there is no difference between them regardless of their various [political] orientations.”
According to the minister, the PA is waiting for answers and mediation efforts from several third parties. “The file won’t be closed until international players intervene. We have called upon the whole world to intervene and we are waiting for them to respond,” he said.
On another note, the leaders of both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have criticized the performance of the PA in the efforts they have made so far regarding the release of the prisoners. Hamas leader - Abdel Aziz al Rantisi - told Al Bawaba, “the PA’s work has had a negative impact…it holds security meetings with the Israelis and at the same time holds separate negotiations about the release of the prisoners. Any pressure on Israel by the PA [in this way] becomes very weak.” He also pointed out that the Palestinian side has fully cooperated from a security point of view and Israel should have released the prisoners in return by now.
Islamic Jihad leader - Abdullah al Shami - agreed with Rantisi, saying, “The PA has been negative in tackling the more important issues affecting the Palestinian people, the most recent of which has been its weak stance towards Israeli violations at the holy al Aqsa mosque.”
He added, “Amid Israel’s intransigence, security and other meetings are being held without any tangible results aimed at alleviating the Palestinian people’s suffering.”
Commenting on the release of detainees, Rantisi described Israel as “playing with a sensitive issue”. “What is required is that all prisoners be released, and we don’t care about what the Israeli committee will discuss.” He added, “we have learnt from our past experience with Israel. Israel will only release those prisoners who have almost finished their jail terms, or those who have received administrative jail terms. Whatever the case may be, we reject Israel’s actions.”
Shami stressed the need for the release of all eight thousand prisoners currently held in Israeli jails. He said, “even though they will be releasing 350 prisoners, of which some will be Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, it does not mean that Israel has offered anything. This will never elude us, and our demands in return for ‘the truce’ were clear, as we called for the release of all prisoners regardless of their references.” (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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