Israel is releasing 400 Palestinian prisoners on Thursday. Strongly supported by the Bush administration, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called the prisoner release an attempt to boost Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the Gaza Strip withdrawal.
The release is done with a general atmosphere of dissatisfaction among Palestinians because of the absence of coordination with the Palestinian Authority concerning the standards of releasing this second group since Abbas was named president, RNA reported.
Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel stands by its belief that the Palestinian Authority must do more to combat "terrorism," but the government must also work to aid the PA in this effort. "The question is whether we have an interest in strengthening these trends, or prove to ourselves that they're doing nothing, so there's no point in doing anything, no point in dialogue, no point in efforts, rather war all the time, agrressive activity all the time."
In the framework of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, "we promised to free prisoners, as part of the process of renewed dialogue with the Palestinian Authority, and we are standing by that obligation," Olmert told Army Radio.
The prisoners, residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, will include some members of the Islamic movements but the majority will be Fatah operatives.