Ashkenazi Knesset 224 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Ministerial Committee on the Release of Prisoners approved Tuesday evening a list of 432 Palestinian security prisoners to be freed ahead of the US-sponsored Annapolis peace parley scheduled to take place next week.
According to Army Radio, the list includes 15 prisoners from the Gaza Strip. Eight of the inmates that appeared on the original list were removed, because they aligned themselves with Hamas while in prison.
The Israel Prisons Service is expected to publish the list of names on its Web site in the next few days, and if there are no changes, the prisoners are expected to be released before the US conference.
Earlier Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi responded to criticism for saying he was opposed to another Palestinian prisoner release ahead of Annapolis by saying, "a chief of staff cannot have an opinion and not express it."
On Monday, Ashkenazi said - in the presence of several ministers - that he was opposed to the release of 16 prisoners whose names were on the 441-strong list approved by the government earlier that day.
Following criticism leveled against him on Tuesday by members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ashkenazi said he was "not against releasing prisoners; [he was] against releasing prisoners to Gaza, so long as Gilad Schalit is still held there."
Ashkenazi also said that while a popular uprising, or intifada, could erupt following Annapolis, such a scenario was unlikely.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a military ceremony in the South that recent events in Gaza and Monday's attack in the West Bank indicate Hamas and Islamic Jihad's intention to raise terror levels before Annapolis.
Barak said the IDF was maintaining a high level of alert along the Gaza Strip, the Lebanese border and the West Bank.