Israel starts to release Palestinian prisoners
Buses carrying Palestinian prisoners on their way to freedom began leaving Israeli prisons Wednesday morning bound for West Bank and Gaza checkpoints where Israel said they would be freed.
The first bus of sixteen people left "Ketziot" prison, south of Beersheba, at 7 a.m. (local time). Other buses have left the Megiddo prison in the North. The release is set for 2:30 p.m. (local time) at various checkpoints. An Israeli military source said no changes have been made regarding either the schedule or the number of prisoners to be set free Wednesday.
"The release is going smoothly," the source said, cited by the Jerusalem Post.
Each prisoner will be obligated to sign a form promising not to be involved in any further "terrorist activity" against Israel. Anyone who refuses to sign it will be returned to jail, said a top Israeli army officer.
The convoys, under tight police guard, are set to deliver the prisoners to five crossing points, four in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip.
The largest number of prisoners, 103, will be freed at the Turkamiya roadblock. Another 70 will be released at Tulkarm, and 70 more at Beitunya, southwest of Ramallah.
Sixty-eight will be released at the Salem roadblock near Jenin, and 28 are to be set free at the Erez crossing in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has said it will release several hundred prisoners, however Palestinians complained that many more prisoners ought to be freed. In response, they canceled a leaders' summit and called for American intervention to prevent a crisis in peace efforts. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas canceled a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon planned for Wednesday to protest the list of prisoners to be released.
Israel is holding around 7,700 prisoners, and Palestinians demand that Israel free thousands of them. Israel, however, says it won't release Palestinians involved in "terror attacks", according to AP.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, on his part, called the release a "deceit," referring to the fact that the majority of the prisoners to be freed had nearly completed their terms.
The list includes 443 prisoners. Most were to be freed Wednesday, but 99, convicted of crimes, would be released at a later date, according to Israeli security sources. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)