Israel frees 199 Palestinian prisoners
Israel released 199 Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank at 9:30 A.M. Monday, as a "gesture of good will" to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Israel Prison Service has taken the prisoners from Ofer Prison, close to Jerusalem, to the Beituniya checkpoint near Ramallah, Israel Radio reported.
The longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody, Said al-Atabeh, 57, of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), was among those freed. "This is a great joy for our mothers and our people but it remains a small step because we left behind us thousands of prisoners," Atabeh said, according to Reuters.
Upon their arrival, Abbas welcomed them at a formal ceremony in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "There is no doubt that we seek peace and we are trying to seek our goals -- and there won't be peace without the release of all prisoners," Abbas said at the celebration.
Last week, the Israeli cabinet voted in favor of the release, which includes two prisoners convicted of killing Israelis - both of whom have served nearly 30 years of their sentence - plus 197 convicted in other activities.