RealNews

Israel May Free Jailed Islamic Militants

Israel may release a few dozen Islamic militants along with several hundred other Palestinian prisoners, a move that could give a critical boost to lagging peace efforts, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday. Palestinian officials said Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas would stress the importance of prisoner releases when he meets Sunday with Israeli premier Ariel Sharon. The release of prisoners is not directly called for in the internationally backed “road map” for Mideast peace. But it has become the first big sticking point for the plan, which aims to end nearly three years of fighting, settle the generations-old conflict and create a Palestinian state by 2005. The Palestinians want Israel to release thousands of prisoners, but Israel has so far agreed to free only a few hundred, and previously has said it will not consider Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants for release. A change in that position could ease militants’ demands and bolster street support for Abbas, who has been criticized by his own people for not being tough enough in renewed talks with the Israelis. Full Story

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