Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that no freed Palestinian prisoners will be deported, despite claims by Israel that it will demand that some be sent to Gaza or neighboring Arab countries.
Abbas added that Israeli-Arabs and Jerusalem residents would be among the 104 prisoners released by Israel in the near future.
Abbas’s comment came while a special ministerial committee was convening Sunday evening to approve the first 26 Palestinian prisoners to be freed, as part of the agreement with Israel to restart negotiations. The panel was due to release the names at 1:00 a.m. Jerusalem time.
The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying that 14 of the prisoners will be released to Gaza, and 12 to the West Bank. Eight of the prisoners were to finish their sentences in the coming three years, two of them in the coming six months, according to the PMO.
The group will be released as early as Tuesday morning.
Abbas’s statements came hours after his meeting with US mediator Martin Indyk in Ramallah earlier Sunday, two weeks after negotiations restarted in Washington and days before the next round of talks is set to take place in Jerusalem on Wednesday. The two sides are set to meet again the week after in the West Bank town of Jericho.
Last month the cabinet approved the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners who have been serving time since before the 1993 Oslo Accords. The move was made as a gesture to the Palestinians to help restart negotiations, and while the decision was widely criticized by politicians on the right and parts of the Israeli public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was for the “good of the country.”
Th special ministerial committee is composed of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Science Minister Yaakov Peri, and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. The panel will decide, based on criteria established by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which of the prisoners on the list of 104 will go free and at what stage, and whether they will be allowed to return to their homes or be sent abroad; it will also oversee the implementation.
Netanyahu was not set to attend the meeting, due to his recovering from an overnight emergency hernia operation.
Earlier Sunday, the High Court of Justice began reviewing a petition by families of terror victims against the planned release of the Palestinian terrorists.