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Israel names inmates to be freed

Israel has published the names of 26 Palestinian prisoners, most of them jailed for deadly attacks, who are to be released this week as part of a US-brokered deal that led to a resumption of Middle East negotiations.

Israelis and Palestinians are to launch talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday, following a preparatory round two weeks ago in Washington. The prisoner release, expected on Tuesday, is part of an agreement to restart the talks after a five-year freeze.

Relatives of some of the Israeli victims protested angrily over the list, while Palestinian pro-prisoner activists said it fell short of expectations. Israel is to free 104 of the longest-held Palestinian prisoners in coming months, most of them detained for killing Israelis or suspected Palestinian collaborators. They are to be freed in four stages over the course of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which are envisioned to go on for about nine months.

Israel's Prison Service posted the 26 names online to allow two days for possible court appeals.Twenty-one in the group were convicted of killings, while others were involved in attempted murder or kidnapping.

Half the prisoners on the list had no given release date, meaning they were serving full life terms, while others would have been released in a few years without the special deal. Most have already served around 20 years, with the longest-held arrested in 1985.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have spent time in Israeli prisons on security charges since Israel's capture of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in 1967. They are jailed on charges ranging from throwing rocks to killing civilians in bombing and shooting attacks.

Most Palestinians view prisoners as heroes, regardless of their acts, arguing they made personal sacrifices in the struggle for independence. Many Israelis view those involved in the killings as terrorists for killing civilians.

Among the victims of the prisoners due for release was Isaac Rotenberg, who was killed in 1994 at the age of 69 by Palestinians who attacked him with axes while he was working at a building site, said his son, Pini.

Mr Rotenberg had survived the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and fought alongside partisans in the Second World War before moving to Israel, his son said. "It's painful to pay such a heavy price just as a concession for talks," Pini Rotenberg said.

The Palestinians argue that the prisoners carried out their acts at a time of outright conflict, before Israel and the Palestinians struck their first interim peace agreement in 1994. They say Israel should have released the prisoners long ago, as part of previous peace talks.


From Belfast Telegraph