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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Nearly one in every five Palestinian prisoners who has been released returns to terror activities, a senior Justice Ministry official said Wednesday.
The remarks by Pardons Department head Emmy Palmor came just two days before Israel is scheduled to free more than 250 Palestinian prisoners in a confidence-building measure aimed at bolstering Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
About 85 percent of the Palestinian prisoners slated for release on Friday morning were from Fatah, and the rest from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Palmor said. None of the prisoners were from Hamas, she noted.
Israel releases two Hamas members
Palmor said that about 17% of Palestinian prisoners convicted on terror-related offensives who had been freed by Israel later returned to terror activities.
"I cannot tell you that none of the 250 prisoners who will be released on Friday will return to terror," Palmor said in a press briefing.
The Almagor Terror Victims Association, which has petitioned the High Court of Justice to delay the release, said Wednesday that 179 Israelis have been killed over the last seven years by Palestinians freed in previous deals.
"From an initial inspection of the list, there are already some names of terrorists whose release is unreasonable," wrote Almagor head Meir Eindor.
By law, the list of Palestinian prisoners to be freed must be published 48 hours before their scheduled release to allow for petitions to the Supreme Court.
But Israel's highest court has never blocked a prisoner release in the past, deferring to the government's jurisdiction on the issue, Palmor said.
The Justice Ministry, which carefully selects the prisoners to be released, in consultation with security officials, does not expect any delays in this week's release either, she said.
None of the prisoners scheduled for release had "blood on their hands," meaning they had not killed Israelis, and had at least one year left until the end of their original incarceration period, Palmor said.
An earlier list of prisoners was nixed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert because many of the prisoners did not have one year left on their sentence, she noted.
Palmor also said that the Israeli legal term of "no blood on their hands" was morally ambiguous because it included convicted Palestinian prisoners who had tried to carry out mass murder but had failed in their attempts to kill or injure Israelis.
There are 7,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails, she said. The figure does not include those who are being held without trial in administrative detention.
Among those slated for release Friday is Abdel Rahim Malouh, 61, second in command of the PFLP. The group orchestrated the 2001 assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi. Palmor said Malouh was not involved in the killing.
According to official statistics, fourteen of the prisoners to be released were due to complete their terms next year. The sentence of 70 others ended in 2008, 85 more in 2009, 46 in 2010, 32 in 2011, 6 in 2012, 2 in 2013 and 1 each in 2014 and 2015.
Palmor concurred that there were security risks inherent in the early release of Palestinian prisoners, but stressed that the release was a political decision taken by the government.
"I have a 15-year-old son taking the bus right now in Jerusalem. Nothing can be more personal," Palmor said.
During her briefing, Palmor also revealed that at least one Palestinian prisoner preferred to stay behind bars to continue receiving free arthritic medication.