Israel releases 224 Palestinian inmates

At Ramallah welcoming ceremony, Abbas says "joy won't be complete" until all prisoners released.

palestinian prisoner release ap (photo credit: )
palestinian prisoner release ap
(photo credit: )
Israel released 224 Palestinian prisoners Monday in a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who welcomed the former inmates in Ramallah, but said the "joy won't be complete until Israel frees all Palestinian prisoners." Buses carrying former inmates, most from the Fatah movement, drove from Ofer Prison near Ramallah to the Beitunya checkpoint where hundreds of anxious relatives waited. As the first bus pulled into sight, some of the released men jumped on the roof of the bus, hopping up and down with joy. Others waved Fatah flags and draped the Palestinian black-and-white scarf around their necks. The buses headed from the checkpoint to Abbas's headquarters in Ramallah, where the president hugged and kissed each former detainee. Eighteen other prisoners were to be released to the Gaza Strip. Initially, Israel was to free 227 Palestinians. However, Israeli Prison Service spokesman Yaron Zamir said only 224 were freed, and the release of three others was still under review. Earlier, the High Court of Justice canceled the temporary injunction issued by Justice Elyakim Rubinstein late Sunday night delaying the release of the prisoners. The injunction had followed petitions charging that some of the prisoners had "blood on their hands." The State responded Monday morning to the petitions, claiming that a check of the prisoners to be released proved that none of them were convicted of harming Israelis. The Almagor terror victims association had claimed that of the original 227 prisoners, 143 were charged with attempted murder, and almost all were arrested after 2006. A second petition was filed by the Legal Center to Investigate Terrorism, and Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. The petitioners charged that some of the prisoners had "blood on their hands" and had been accused of crimes including shooting at soldiers and civilians and planting bombs. Almagor made a study of each of the prisoners released on Monday. It claimed it had found that one of the prisoners, Muhammad Ali, had been sentenced to four years in prison for involvement in several instances of terrorist activity between 2002 and 2005, including belonging to a terrorist organization and opening fire at soldiers. Muntasar Jadalla was put on trial in 2007 for throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles on Highway 443. He was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. Meir Indor, the head of Almagor, told The Jerusalem Post that an army lawyer had confirmed that Palestinians accused of serious crimes were receiving substantially shorter sentences than they had received in the past. The reason, Indor said he had been told, was that there was not enough room in prisons to keep most prisoners for long periods. AP contributed to this report.