The Zionist entity on Tuesday was preparing to release 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, the second batch of 104 inmates who are to be freed as part of US-brokered talks.
The release, which is due to take place late on Tuesday night, will see 21 prisoners returned to their homes in the West Bank and the remaining five returning home to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
“All were convicted for killing Israelis, with most of the attacks occurring before the 1993 Oslo Accords, which granted the Palestinians limited self-rule, but failed to bring about an independent state”, AFP stated.
Of the 26, all but two prisoners were serving life sentences.
The move has sparked tensions within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. And Israel has pledged to push through a wave of new settlement tenders in tandem with the release, in a move which officials say was coordinated in advance.
“The decision to release the prisoners is one of the most difficult I’ve had to make”, Netanyahu told his rightwing Likud party on Monday in remarks broadcast on public radio. “It is unjust because these terrorists are being released before completing their sentence. My heart is with the families of the victims”.
Netanyahu agreed to release a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners in four stages as part of the latest resumption of talks aimed at resolving the decades-old conflict. A first tranche of 26 prisoners were freed on August 13.
“This decision was taken in light of the weight of reality which we are living in”, Netanyahu said. “We are obliged to operate in a complex international arena which forces us to take into account different elements for the good of Israel”.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said: “We can’t say yes to the Americans one day, and three months later say no”.
The prisoners were bussed to Ofer military prison on Monday, where they spent the night ahead of their release, a spokeswoman for Israel Prisons Service told AFP. She said the West Bank prisoners would be bussed from Ofer to the Beitunia checkpoint from where they would travel to Ramallah, while a second bus would take the remaining prisoners to the Erez crossing to enter Gaza.
On Monday evening, around 2,000 Israelis rallied outside Ofer prison chanting “Death to terrorists!” and raising placards reading: “Are we crazy? We’re releasing murderers”.