26 Palestinian prisoners were released on Monday, in accordance with commitments made to revive US-brokered “peace talks.”
“Two vans carrying (18) prisoners left Ofer prison and were headed to Ramallah” in the West Bank, a Palestinian official said, adding that three other prisoners were being released to the Gaza Strip and five others to east al-Quds (Jerusalem).
Tuesday’s release was the third stage of the freeing of 104 prisoners that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed to let go in four stages, when the peace talks were renewed in July.
The freed prisoners had reached their destinations just before 02:30 am (0030 GMT).
The 26 inmates had been jailed before the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, which formally launched the Middle East peace process, and served 19 to 28.
The 18 men taken to Ramallah were warmly embraced by Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas in his presidential compound, an AFP correspondent said, before laying flowers on the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Abbas pledged to the prisoners and their exuberant families that “there would be no final agreement (with Israel) until all prisoners were in their homes.”
The final tranche of prisoner releases is expected at the end of April.
The freed prisoners are hailed by Palestinians as heroes imprisoned for fighting against the Israeli occupation.
Source: Al Manar