UK & World News
Peace Talks: Israel To Free Palestinian Inmates
Israel has decided to free 26 Palestinian prisoners within the next few days ahead of a new round of peace talks brokered by the US.
The released prisoners will be the first among a group of more than 100 inmates Israel has pledged to free as part of the resumption of negotiations.
Three senior members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet and a panel of security officials have agreed to the list of names, due to be published on Monday.
The panel headed by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon "approved the release of 26 prisoners," a statement from Mr Netanyahu's office said.
Fourteen would be deported or moved to the Gaza Strip and 12 repatriated to the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had demanded the release of the men, held since before an interim peace deal in 1993, as a condition for renewing talks.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians ran aground in 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building.
Israel agreed in principle last month to free 104 prisoners in four stages, depending on the progress of US-brokered talks for Palestinian statehood.
The talks resumed on July 30 after US Secretary of State John Kerry's intensive diplomacy.
Far-right members of Mr Netanyahu's cabinet had opposed the release of prisoners with "blood on their hands".
Many of those expected to go free were convicted of involvement of lethal attacks in which Israelis were killed.
The cabinet decision on Sunday said the inmates would not be freed for at least 48 hours to provide time for victims' families picketing government offices to appeal to Israel's high court.
The court rarely intervenes in such cases.
Softening the blow of the prisoner release for far-right members of Mr Netanyahu's government, Israel has also moved forward with plans to build nearly 1,200 homes for Jewish settlers.
While condemning settlement expansion, Palestinians have stopped short of threatening outright to abandon the negotiations, which are due to go into a second round in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
But Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, whose centrist party is Mr Netanyahu's biggest partner in the governing coalition, called the decision to issue the settlement housing tenders "unhelpful to the peace process".