Gov't officials: Release moved to next week on PA's request; Abbas aide: We weren't contacted.
By HERB KEINON, ABE SELIGPublished: DECEMBER 8, 2008 13:34Advertisement
The release of 230 Palestinian prisoners is being delayed until next week, the Prime Minister's Office announced Monday, citing a request by the Palestinian Authority.
The release, originally set for Tuesday, will now take place on December 15, the statement said.
Government officials said their Palestinian counterparts had asked for the delay because PA President Mahmoud Abbas was out of the country and wanted to be back in the West Bank to greet the freed prisoners.
Ya'acov Edri, the minister of Negev and Galilee Development, told Israel Radio it seemed Abbas wanted to be in the Palestinian Authority when the prisoners were released to "reap the benefits" and get a public relations boost.
Abbas currently is on the haj in Saudi Arabia.
Rafiq Husseini, a top Abbas aide, said the president planned to make stops in Russia and the US before returning. However he said Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, had not sought any delay.
"I can assure you Abu Mazen doesn't want to see these people imprisoned for one single day," he said, adding that Israeli officials had not contacted his office over the delay.
However, one Israeli government official said that since the list of the names was publicized on the Justice Ministry and Israel Prisons Service Web sites at 1 p.m. on Sunday, legally, the prisoners could be released within 48 hours, since the public had been given a chance to review the names and appeal the release of individuals on the list.
That the list was publicized on Sunday, the source said, indicated that Israel intended to release the prisoners on Tuesday.
The release of the 230 prisoners, none of whom have "blood on their hands" or are Hamas or Islamic Jihad members, had been presented as a goodwill gesture to Abbas, and was to have coincided with Id al-Adha, which began Monday. The move is also seen as an effort to improve Abbas's position on the Palestinian street.
Israel has released some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in a number of similar goodwill gestures since the summer of 2007. Some 9,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently in Israeli jails.
AP contributed to this report.
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